Wimbledon 2012. Under the sweltering heat in one of London’s poshest districts, two future stars were giving it their all out on Court no. 1. One forehand into the net and it was all over; Eugenie Bouchard was the 2012 Wimbledon girls champion and the first Canadian EVER to win a Grand Slam. The reaction from her was unexpected and strangely underwhelmed; not even a fist pump to celebrate her historic win, she had kept her emotions tightly bottled. Unknown to anyone at that time, she was exhibiting the same maturity and cool-headedness that would become her trademark in the times to come.
Born in the English speaking Westmount district of Montreal, Eugenie was a shy child with varied interests. She enjoyed school and her favourite subject there was Maths; she’s often said that she was really determined to get 100% on all her maths tests and she thinks that self-discipline often translates to tennis too. By the age of 5, she and her twin sister Beatrice went for activity classes were they would do exercises like jumping through hoops and then a bit of tennis. But Genie just wanted to keep hitting balls and she soon left those classes to concentrate on private lessons. When she was 8, she started to beat her mother at tennis and that fuelled her competitive drive even further. Soon after, she started competing on the junior tour. In the unfamiliar and vicious world of junior tennis, she found a compatriot in British youngster Laura Robson who would be her confidant for many years to come. When other children their age were reluctant to leave their homes, Bouchard and Robson were competing for accolades in far countries, away from their families. On the junior tour, to get more titles, players are taught to play it safe, defensive and try to loop the ball in to make less errors. Although that’s a productive short term strategy, it’s marring in the long term for the professional circuit. With Bouchard developing an aggressive game from the beginning, she was more than ready for the pressures that the senior tour brings.
Paired with Grace Min, in 2011, the duo took home the Wimbledon girls doubles title. Spurred on by that success, in 2012, Bouchard won both the Wimbledon girls singles and doubles championship. That win put her in the limelight and catapulted her into the public eye. From an unknown teenager, she had turned into a national icon.
2013 was Bouchard’s breakthrough year on the WTA tour. Debuting at number 145, she rose steadily through the rankings to finish the year end at no. 32. The highlights of her year were beating former World no.1 Ana Ivanovic on Centre Court at Wimbledon and winning the WTA newcomer of the year. Still a teenager, I don’t think anybody had expected these spectacular results but no one knew what was to come in 2014.
Under the stifling heat of Melbourne, that caused many problems for top players, Eugenie Bouchard announced her arrival to the world. Egged on by a group of spectators who called themselves the ‘Genie Army’, Bouchard annihilated experienced opponents and in the process won an entire legion of followers all over the world. With her brand image increasing with every win, Bouchard had finally become a feared opponent on the tour. Building up on the semifinal at the Australian Open, Bouchard also reached the quarterfinals at Indian wells, semis at Charleston and the semis at the French Open(where she lost to the experienced Maria Sharapova). Suddenly though, it seemed like Bouchard was more open with her emotions. Earlier her end of match reaction used to be a mere fist pump, but after she won the quarterfinals, the reaction was more like a ‘going down on knees, double fistpump and roar.’ She has never looked back since then, and major victories are often followed by the now famous ‘Genie Bouchard roar’.
At Wimbledon, Genie had a surreal run. Blitzing through top players(including Kerber(who beat Sharapova), Cornet(who beat Serena) and Halep(World No.2), Bouchard had reached the final of the most prestigious tournament of the year. This is the stage that every single player dreams to be at, but very few actually fulfil that dream. In the final, she was simply outclassed by Kvitova and later confessed that that the nerves had got to her. Her words at the end of that summed up the lacklustre performance: “I am very motivated to win a Grand Slam, it’s been a lifelong dream of mine. I feel like I’ve taken steps in the right direction. I don’t know if I deserve all your love today, but I appreciate it.” After that, she suffered a humiliating loss at her hometown in Montreal but improved upon that performance, to reach the 4th round at the US open. She also helped Canada reach the World Group at the Fed Cup for the first time in 28 years. Finishing her year off on a high, Genie Bouchard has also qualified for the elite 8 player WTA tour finals in Singapore.
Armed with mental toughness, confidence, deadly shots in her arsenal, a huge group of admirers and a will to succeed, Bouchard is slowly making people sit up and take notice. One of the most prominent parts of her personality is the fact that she’s never happy with what she’s achieved, she wants to do better. In her own words,”I wouldn’t say I exceeded my expectations, but I’m happy with how I did, I always want to do better.” With this attitude, she could soon become a feared opponent on the tour. She’s often known for her to-the-point press conference answers and her calm off-court demeanour no matter what the result. Filled with ambition, talent, determination, on-court skill and an off-court charismatic personality, she’s on the way to carving her own niche in the top echelons of the game.
Legends praise her
Legends and current players have heaped lots of praise on her. Martina Navratilova(18 Grand Slam winner who’s thought to be the best player ever), said, “She’s a potential future No. 1, no doubt about that.” American legend Chris Evert says that,” Genie is the future of tennis and I myself am a ‘Genie Believer’. She can go on to do huge things in her career if she continues to progress at the same rate.” Former world no.1 Ana Ivanovic said, “She’s definitely brave, I think she’s a very great player with a bright future.” Swiss ace(and Eugenie’s favourite player) Roger Federer said,” She seems like she works really hard, enjoys what she’s doing. She’s got a great attitude on court in my opinion. She doesn’t fist pump every point; She’s normal, you know? I’m happy she’s been successful and I hope she can keep that up and win the big one’s now.”
Bouchard has also taken the 13th place in Sportspro’s most marketable athletes and is a recognised face all over Canada, signing deals with well known brands like Pinty’s and Coca Cola. Even now, people are worried she’ll change into the next Anna Kournikova, merely a marketing tool. To these ill omens, I can say just one thing, in Bouchard’s own words: “I don’t want to be the next someone else, I want to be the first of me”. I honestly think that with the maturity that she has shown and with a stable head on her shoulders, she won’t be tempted by the prospect of making a quick buck, and instead look at the long term effects of such decisions.
From an unsure 5 year old, Bouchard has grown into a talented and confident 20 year old who knows what she wants do in life and is ready to work hard to get there. Eugenie Bouchard is finally ready to take on the greats of the game.
To do something crazy and to be amazing, to achieve something crazy, you have to do something crazy. You have to sacrifice and do something that’s not normal, because you want to become not normal. To become a great champion, you can’t do what the average Joe does. Because you’re not going to get there.