[This article first appeared on Vacay.ca on August 5, 2012.]
Many Canadians skip off to travel the world when they’re 19. Eugenie Bouchard, though, is doing so in a high-stakes, high-style environment that only professional athletes would be involved in at such a young age.
The tennis sensation from Montreal is in her first full year on the WTA tour, which covers 59 tournaments in 20 countries. This week, Bouchard joins the Williams sisters and other top-ranked players at the annual Rogers Cup tournament in Toronto. The rigorous schedule that’s filled with practice sessions, media commitments, more practice sessions, and whirlwind scheduling that keeps her hopping from one destination to the next limits how much Bouchard can enjoy her world travels. But she does try to get out and see what she can of the stops on WTA.
“It’s tough travelling all the time, because you are always living out of suitcase for your job, but I love it. I love travelling, and seeing all of these different cultures,” she said Sunday during a press conference that followed a practice session at York University’s Rexall Centre, site of the tournament whose main draw begins Monday.
Bouchard will play Russia’s Alisa Kleybanova in the first round and will also team with retired champ Monica Seles for an exhibition doubles match against Venus and Serena Williams on Monday night. At 5-foot-10, Bouchard is a rangy, powerful player who has made a blazing ascent up the rankings since cracking the world’s top 200 last August. She’s currently No. 58 on the WTA and is no longer catching opponents by surprise after upsetting 12th-seeded Ana Ivanovic at Wimbledon in June. In a conference call last week, Serena Williams said Bouchard was “a talented player with improving control of her groundstrokes.”
With Maria Sharapova, the No. 2 player in the world, pulling out of the tournament, Tennis Canada is leaning on Bouchard to be a face of the Rogers Cup. With a quick smile and witty personality (see her Gangnam Style video with British player Laura Robson), Bouchard is poised to be Canada’s sporting sweetheart for years to come. Having the fans behind her in Toronto this week will be a help, she predicted.
“Coming home is special. I know I’m going to have great crowd support and that always helps. I’ll be using that to my advantage,” she said.
With the Rogers Cup and the Bell Challenge in Quebec City being the only Canadian stops on the pro tennis circuit, it’s rare for Bouchard to be in front of an overwhelmingly supportive audience. She’s mostly unknown in other parts of the world, which is actually an advantage for her when she is travelling. Unlike Sharapova or the Williams, Bouchard can sightsee — and be goofy — in anonymity.
“I’ve been to so many places and although the schedule doesn’t allow me to get out and see too much, I do try. I’ve been to some places in Asia that are just so amazing. Beijing is a city I thought was really great,” she said of the Chinese capital where she and Robson did their best Psy impersonation in front of a Starbucks and along the Great Wall.
Bouchard joins men’s talents Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil to give Canada it’s most talented corps of singles tennis players ever. The men’s draw of the Rogers Cup is played in Montreal as the tournament annually rotates the men’s and women’s fields between Canada’s two largest cities. The top-seeded male is Novak Djokovic while Serena Williams leads the women’s field. On Sunday a couple of hundred people showed up to Centre Court in Toronto hoping to take in her practice session, but Williams cancelled at the last minute. Last week, she said she was excited to be back in Toronto, where she was victorious in 2011.
“I find the people are really great and I love coming here every time. I remember always having an enjoyable time in Toronto,” she said.
[Read the rest of the article on Vacay.ca, including how to buy tickets to the Rogers Cup.]