From Westmount to Wimbledon…and Beyond

Morgan Lowrie
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Eugenie Bouchard has her sights set on the future

When she was three years old, Eugenie Bouchard hit her first tennis balls at Murray Hill Park with her parents.  A few short years later, she was making history on the fabled grass courts of Wimbledon, when on July 7th she became the first Canadian ever to win a singles tennis Grand Slam.

She followed up on her win (soon duplicated by fellow Canadian Filip Peliwo, who won the boys’ singles) with a victory in the doubles event, this time partnered with American Taylor Townsend.  Canada, not traditionally a tennis powerhouse, was vaulted onto the world stage, and Bouchard, 18, became a national star. 

She seems to have taken the experience pretty much in stride.

“When I got to Wimbledon I was really confident, having won a tournament the week before,” Bouchard said on Monday.  “I wasn’t really nervous.”

“I was not thinking about the score, not thinking that I was in a Wimbledon final. I was just focused on what I had to do, on playing the right way, which I think I did,” she said.

A LONG JOURNEY

Although she’s still a teenager, Bouchard’s success has come only after years of training, of sweat and sacrifice – for both herself and her family.

Bouchard started playing tennis at the age of five, and has been competing in international tournaments since she was nine. According to her mother Julie, Eugenie’s talent – and passion – were apparent from the beginning.

“She was always athletic and had good hand-eye coordination,” Julie Bouchard said. “She’s also mentally tough -- she can focus like a laser beam.”

By the end of sixth grade, balancing training and school had become difficult.  “We had to make a choice between tennis and normal life, normal school,” her mother said. They picked tennis.

The family – her mother, sisters, and brother – moved from Westmount to Florida for two years in order to further Eugenie’s training.  All of this was paid for by the family, with a few grants from Tennis Canada.

“It got to be too much, sometimes,” Julie Bouchard said.  “But at the same time, she has talent, it’s her dream, and she’s doing something really exceptional.”

“My sister is a normal girl,” Bouchard says. “Sometimes I see her and I want her life, but not too often. The life I’m living is special, exceptional.” Eugenie Bouchard

In 2009, the family moved back to Montreal, where Eugenie joined Tennis Canada’s national training centre at Uniprix Stadium.

She briefly attended Westmount High, before the demands of her sport took over once again, and she switched to distance learning.

Nowadays, Eugenie travels up to eight months a year for tournaments. When she’s home, she trains five to six hours a day, and tries to squeeze in a little schoolwork.

“It’s pretty hard,” Bouchard admits. “The training is physically and mentally demanding. I travel all the time; I don’t have a normal life.”

Bouchard’s twin sister, who does not play tennis, has already finished a year of CEGEP.

“My sister is a normal girl,” Bouchard says. “Sometimes I see her and I want her life, but not too often.  The life I’m living is special, exceptional.”

“I’ll have a social life when I retire!” she says with a laugh.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Bouchard is not giving herself much time to dwell on her Wimbledon win.  She’s in her last junior year, and is focused on making the difficult transition to the senior professional ranks. Tennis is full of stories of junior stars that couldn’t make the leap, but Bouchard is confident that all she needs is time.

“I think I just need to start playing more at the top level. I need to play the top 100, top 200, players and get used to it, because they’re very close and within reach.”

She is not bothered by the added expectations placed on her now.

“I always put pressure on myself, so pressure from others doesn’t bother me,” she says. “I’m just going to concentrate on my tennis, keep improving, and the results will come.”

 

Geographic location: Wimbledon, Westmount, Canada Florida Montreal Uniprix Stadium

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