Genie may be next Canadian tennis gem
Globe and Mail Update
April 12, 2009 at 8:31 PM EDT
If, as many Canadian tennis officials hope, Eugenie Bouchard becomes a force on the world scene, she will have the cachet of a distinctive first name.
Bouchard, who at 15 won the Canadian under-18 indoor championship in Toronto on Saturday, is a non-identical twin. Her parents, Julie and Mike, named her sister Beatrice and her after the daughters of Prince Andrew and his former wife, Sarah Ferguson.
“They call me Genie in a Bottle sometimes,” Bouchard said jokingly. “But my real name is nice, too.”
In January at the Australian Open, this reporter watched her second-round junior match against eventual champion Ksenia Pervak of Russia and was told by Sven Groeneveld, a consultant for adidas who works with its players, that his company first noticed her when she was 11.
In women's tennis, it's not just solid strokes that count. Bouchard, who lives in upscale Westmount in Montreal, also has good looks to go with a promising game. It is no accident adidas has glamour girls Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki under contract, and has recently signed Bouchard to what is believed to be a lucrative clothing deal.
On Saturday, the blonde, lean, 5-foot-9 Bouchard overpowered fellow Quebecker Marianne Jodoin 6-4, 7-5 to become, at 15 years and a month, one of the youngest winners of the indoor event.
Helen Kelesi from Richmond, B.C., in 1983, and Sharon Fichman of Toronto in 2003, were both victorious at 13.
Bouchard spent much of 2007 and 2008 training at the tennis academy in Sunrise, Fla., run by former American player Nick Saviano. But she is now based at the National Tennis Centre at Jarry Park in Montreal.
“I was able to practise with a lot of great players,” Bouchard said about Florida, where she did her schooling online. “It showed me real tennis, outdoors. Indoors, it's kind of different, more first-strike. The point's over quickly. Outdoors, you got to work for the point. It's a different mindset.”
So far in 2009, she has played six International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior events in Australia and South America, compiling a 10-6 record and reaching No. 84 in the ITF's under-18 rankings.
One of her best friends is Laura Robson, the British phenom who won last year's Wimbledon junior title at 14. Exactly 35 days younger than Robson, Bouchard said: “It's cool because we can be together when we travel. We talk to each other a lot on Facebook.”
Bouchard, whose mother is of Irish ancestry, prefers the English pronunciation of her first name, and it is written without a French accent.
While she lives on the same tony, quaint street in Westmount as former prime minister Brian Mulroney, her formative years were not spent at high-end private tennis clubs. She began playing on public courts in nearby Murray Park and at the popular commercial indoor club on Nun's Island.
It was there she had her first strong feelings for the sport. “I started at five. My parents put my twin sister [she also has a younger sister and brother] and me in groups. It was more like games, jumping hoops – not playing tennis. I didn't like the groups because I wanted to play tennis. My sister loved them because they were fun. My parents realized I actually wanted to play tennis and started signing me up for more – twice a week, three times a week, [in] groups and then private [lessons] later on.”
Tennis Canada recognizes Bouchard's potential and a coach at its National Training Centre, Roberto Brogin from Italy, has been assigned exclusively to her.
With an improving serve, ground strokes that pack serious punch, especially a wickedly flat two-handed backhand, decent volleys and genuine competitive grit, it is no surprise Bouchard has lofty ambitions.
“Short term,” she said, “I'm doing all the [junior Grand] Slams this year, so it will be a good experience. Long term, I want to be No.1 in the world and win a real Grand Slam.”
Tennis Canada hopes it has found a gem in the girl her investment banker father calls “Genie.”