She may not have won Wimbledon 2014, but there’s no question Eugenie Bouchard is responsible for claiming the attention and devotion of Canadians across the nation.
The 20-year-old Montreal tennis player became the first Canadian to ever reach a Grand Slam singles final on Saturday morning, losing to 24-year-old Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-0. Bouchard's place at the finals gained the excitement of legions of fans, but was not necessarily a surprise for this veteran, who's been playing since she was nine years old.
"I never say I'm surprised because I've put in a lot of hard work and it's been kind of years in the making to me. So I believe in myself and expect good results and I always want more," she told ESPN in an interview after the semifinal game.
Czech Republic's Kvitova, who was ranked 6th before the match, and is now seeded at 4th, was Wimbledon's champion in 2011. The left-handed server had previously beaten Bouchard at Toronto's Roger's Cup in 2013. There had been rumours the match would be held indoors due to inclement weather, a scenario many said would favour Kvitova's training.
"It was really tough for me today, but I'm proud of how I played this whole tournament," she told an ESPN interviewer after the game. "I feel like it's a step in the right direction." In response to a statement noting the level of noise in the crowd honouring her, she laughed and responded, "I don't know if I deserve all your love today, but I really appreciate it."
Bouchard, who won the junior singles title at Wimbledon in 2012, has been on a meteoric rise in the past two years, jumping from a 32nd seed at the end of 2013 to a number seven spot, even with this loss.
This ranking marks the first time two Canadian players have been in the top 10, as she joins Milos Raonic, who is seeded at number six after his loss in the semifinals against Roger Federer yesterday.
And Bouchard is well aware Canadian eyes have turned to her, taking in the international headlines shouting her name with her poised demeanour.
“It’s funny, because it seems I make history almost every match now,” she told ESPN's Hannah Storm before the semifinals. “It’s fun to make history like that. I first and foremost do it for myself, but if my country is proud, well, that’s great, too.”
The composed and mature 20-year-old has had her eye set on winning a Grand Slam for years, and winning Wimbledon had been of particular note, thanks to its special place in Bouchard's heart.
“It’s my favourite tournament, and I think it’s the most prestigious tournament in tennis,” she told the Toronto Star before the tournament started. “I love the tradition and the history of it — for me, just walking on the grounds, you can get chills down your spine, it’s so special.”
Even making it this far was undoubtedly a feat, and it probably didn’t hurt that Princess Eugenie, after whom Bouchard is named (her siblings also all have royal namesakes) was at the court to watch her game.
But as far as the future goes, in an interview with CBC on Thursday, Bouchard showed why she not only is one to watch now, but also why she makes an amazing role model for the next generation.
"I'm glad that people [in Canada] are getting interested in tennis … if little kids are inspired to play because of me I think that's the greatest honour. I hope tennis can grow as a sport in our country."
No question about it — Bouchard is a true champion.
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