WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the Citi Open tennis tournament boasting a wide open field in the women’s draw this week, it wouldn’t surprise many if rising Canadian player Eugenie Bouchard, the youngest and lowest-ranked in the draw, grabbed at the opportunity to do well here. (Photo gallery at bottom.)
At just 18-years-old, Bouchard has already hit a ranking of No. 300 – and that’s not even playing the WTA Tour full-time. She splits her time between the junior circuit, the ITF and occasional WTA Tour events, but is looking to fully transition into the pros soon.
On this quest, Bouchard is one of three wildcards in the main draw of the Citi Open, and finds herself in the second round after routing world No. 123 Karin Knapp, 6-2, 7-6(4). After her win, she conducted a candid interview with a small group of reporters, indulging us on her trip to the White House, her joy at bonding with Roger Federer over his twins during the Wimbledon ball last month, and her thoughts on her on-court progress.
Having played the inaugural Citi Open tournament last year in College Park, MD, Bouchard is no stranger to this city. She took advantage of the tournament site change and enjoyed the city upon her arrival.
“Last year, we weren’t downtown like we are now, and think it’s really cool to be here,” gushed Bouchard. “Last night we went to the White House and took pictures in front of it.” She went on to admit that she loves American politics and was hoping for a President Obama sighting when a traffic blockade went up on her way to the hotel Saturday. Unfortunately, the President was overseas, but there’s always next year.
On July 7, 2012, Bouchard made history by becoming the first Canadian Grand Slam winner when she won the girls’ singles title at Junior Wimbledon, and she admitted that it was a “great feeling.”
“I worked really hard. I won the warm-up tournament in Roehampton, and I was feeling really good on the grass. To win my first Grand Slam title, even though it was juniors, and also to make history, was really cool to [do] at the same time. It gave me a lot of confidence being one of the best juniors in the world, and now, trying to transition that into the pros. I did well after that as I won the $25,000 in Granby, Canada.”
When asked about how important it was for her to stick with the junior circuit as an 18-year-old, Bouchard spoke honestly about the pressures.
“It’s the question people always ask me. I think it’s really good, because it’s a different kind of pressure. In the pros, you’re the underdog all the time. In the juniors – being the oldest one and one of the top ones – everyone is out to get you from the first round. It’s tough and it’s harder than people think…. I think it’s good for me to deal with that and play with that pressure, and I think it will help me for me career as well because hopefully, I want to be in that position in the pros. …There’s nothing wrong with saying you won Wimbledon Juniors even if you’re 18.”
Bouchard had already tasted Wimbledon gold last year when she won the girls’ doubles title, and was able to defend it this year, but the ensuing Wimbledon Ball for all the winners brought it own surprise. When asked if she attended, she replied excitedly.
“Of course, that’s the best part of Wimbledon! I did it the year before because I won the doubles, but this year, it was unbelievable. I talked to Roger [Federer] — actually talked to him for 5 minutes!”
When asked what the two conversed about, Bouchard was quick to paint the picture. Bouchard, along with the boys’ singles winner and fellow Canadian Filip Peliwo, were greeted by a friendly Federer who was more than willing to take a photo with them, congratulate them and talk about their future endeavors.
“Filip [Peliwo], who won the boy’s singles title, and I got a picture with Roger. He came up and we expected him to take a picture and leave. But we took the picture, and he [starting talking to us]. ‘Congrats, you guys. What’s next? What’s your pro ranking?’ He was asking about what we’re doing. And I told him I’m playing all these tournaments, and I’m No. 300. And he’s said, ‘When I won Junior Wimbledon, I was No. 300 as well.’ And I was like, ‘That’s a sign – it’s meant to be!’’
Not one to cut the story short, Bouchard went on to say how excited she was talking to him about his twin girls, as she is a twin herself.
“And then we talked about his twins because I’m a twin. I told him ‘I love your twins, they’re so cute. They’re always dressed the same!’ And he said, ‘If you don’t dress them the same, they’re going to fight!’ … We totally bonded over twins. It was amazing. He was the nicest guy. Serena left right after the ceremony on the stage, but Roger stuck around and took pictures with everyone.”
With so man great opportunities to meet your idols, it’s easy to forget how much hard work goes into each athlete’s training. Tracing back to Bouchard’s roots in Montreal, Canada, she spoke about how Tennis Canada has assisted in her tennis progress and development since she began training at their National Center in 2008.
“Before , I was in Florida, then I went to train at the National Center in Montreal when I was 15. I think the biggest thing that they are able to provide is so much funding, so we can travel all around the world and play all these top tournaments. That really gives us the chance to win them – to go to Wimbledon and win the title. Obviously, because tennis is an international sport, you really need to get out of Canada, and they helped the most with that.”
In a few short weeks, Bouchard will be making her way to the Rogers Cup in Montreal, a tournament she considers as a homecoming. She grew up playing 10&under tennis there, will have plenty of family and friends present for support, and with a team that strong, she will be looking to make another deep dent in her rankings.
Only time will tell, but with Bouchard’s strong baseline game, efficient serve, and optimistic demeanor, she is sure to go far in her young flourishing tennis career.