THUNDER BAY – Eugenie Bouchard captured the hearts and minds of Canadians during her chase for one of the most prestigious prizes in tennis.
Even though her record setting run at Wimbledon was cut short by a straight set loss to the Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova on Saturday, the future still appears bright for the up-and-coming star.
Thunder Bay Community Tennis Centre assistant pro Jordee Matson thinks this is only the beginning for Bouchard.
“I think the nerves took over in the final and I think in the next one she’ll be better prepared for the big stage,” Matson said. “She’s only 20, which is unbelievable.”
The match was shown on the television in the clubhouse at the tennis centre and an early morning rain delay to the Scotia McLeod City Memorial Tennis Championships gave players an excuse to watch while they waited to take the court.
Kvitova, who had already taken the trophy at the All-England Club in 2011, was dominant in picking up a 6-3, 6-0 victory.
The 24-year-old lefthander fired 28 winners over the course of the 55-minute match, never letting Bouchard get comfortable on the grass of Centre Court.
Local junior player Connor MacIntosh, 17, believes the sky is the limit for Bouchard, who is the only player on the women’s side to advance to at least the semi-final round of the season’s first four Grand Slam tournaments.
“I think Genie Bouchard could even possibly go World No. 1,” MacIntosh said.
MacIntosh has grown up in the sport a fan of Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, a multiple time Grand Slam champion who will be playing in the men’s championship final on Sunday against Roger Federer, who is widely considered the greatest player in the history of the sport.
Now, having Bouchard and Milos Raonic, who became the first Canadian man to advance to a Grand Slam semi-final since 1908 before being dispatched by 17-time Grand Slam winner Federer on Friday, gives him and younger players homegrown talent to idolize.
“With (those two) it just seems possible,” MacIntosh said of having success on the international stage. “It means a lot because tennis is gaining more respect in Canada, but now people are recognizing tennis as a Canadian sport.”
While the result was surely not what Bouchard’s many supporters, known as the Genie Army, were looking for with their strawberries and cream breakfast, it is still a huge boost to a sport that was often admired from afar in Canada.
Matson, a 19-year-old who plays collegiately at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, says the performance of both Bouchard and Raonic will help elevate the profile of the sport.
“It’s good for Canadian tennis because we’re known as a hockey place so it’s good to see somebody make the finals of a major for the first time. All the kids playing here were going crazy, all the adults were going crazy,” Matson said.
“Through all of Wimbledon for Raonic and Bouchard people will come in looking for the score and go back out and play, while constantly looking for score updates. It’s usually never like that.”
The tennis centre is hoping the captivating nature of the success achieved by both Bouchard and Raonic will spin off with increased membership. The courts were full Thursday night after Bouchard punched her ticket into the championshp match following her semi-final victory.
Despite being early in her career, Bouchard is already one of the most recognizable Canadian female sports figures.
“Seeing a female make the final, especially for all the little girls we have, is unbelievable. At the tennis centre our female population is not as good as it should be so hopefully this will help boost our female players,” Matson said.
Bouchard will rise to a career-best No. 7 when the latest edition of the world rankings are released on Monday.
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