Bouchard's Patriot Games
Published October 12, 2013 12:00
OSAKA, Japan - With Fed and Davis Cup teams flying high, Milos Raonic in and around the Top 10 and a production line of talented youngsters looking to follow in his footsteps, Canadian tennis is enjoying an unprecedented period of success at present.
The latest success story to emerge from Canada's new National Tennis Centre is Eugenie Bouchard, who can lay claim to being the WTA's most improved player in 2013.
Having started the year well outside the Top 100, the 19-year-old, who last summer won the Wimbledon junior title, has bounded up the rankings and on Sunday will compete in her first WTA final, against Samantha Stosur in Osaka.
Already the tour's highest-ranked teenager, Bouchard's run in Japan could see her break the Top 30 for the first time on Monday.
Bouchard's emergence, alongside that of Raonic - who this summer became the first Canadian to break into the ATP's Top 10 - has seen tennis' popularity skyrocket in her homeland. And while it still has a long way to go to catch the national pastime, ice hockey, progress is being made.
"Tennis has become a lot more popular in Canada - I think a lot thanks to Milos' success, so I'm happy for him and I hope he continues to do well," Bouchard said. "It makes more kids want to play and I'm trying to do that as well. Because if kids want to play tennis instead of hockey then that's a great achievement in Canada!"
Despite now being based in Florida, Tennis Canada has played a crucial role in Bouchard's development. "Tennis Canada supports us and since we've had the NTC (National Tennis Centre) in Montréal that's helped us realize our goals a bit more.
"They really help us with things like travelling and playing some of the more international tournaments when you're on the way up. I think they help a lot in this way."
Victory over Stosur would see Bouchard become the first Canadian player to lift a WTA title since Aleksandra Wozniak triumphed five years ago in Stanford, and she emitted an air of quiet confidence following her semifinal victory over Kurumi Nara.
"I'm just really excited," she said. "It's a chance for me to win my first title. It's going to be a very tough match, but I have confidence in myself and I'm really excited and am just looking forward to playing my best."