Carling Bassett-Seguso On Bouchard
Published January 22, 2014 12:12
When asked if she had received any messages from friends and fans of Canadian tennis, 1984 US Open semifinalist Carling Bassett-Seguso, the highest-ranked Canadian in the WTA's history, sounded overwhelmed.
"Swamped. I have not been off the phone since early early early... Oh my gosh, I've been bombarded. E-mail, texts, Facebook... It's such an exciting moment for Canadian tennis and for myself, too."
With her quarterfinal win on Tuesday at the Australian Open, Canadian teen Eugenie Bouchard matched the best ever result by a Canadian at a Grand Slam - equaling the run of Bassett-Seguso in 1984. That makes it nearly 30 years in between semifinal appearances for The Great White North.
"Thirty years is a long time, and I was hoping something would happen for Canadian tennis before that," Bassett-Seguso said. "But timing is everything. It seems that she loves and enjoys the game - so, I think she's going to be a great ambassador."
Bouchard has impressed fans around the globe with her play, even amassing a fervent fanbase on site in Melbourne Park - now known as the Genie Army. But it is her demeanor and mental fortitude on court that has impressed her Canadian predecessor.
"She's solid. She is definitely physically fit and her game keeps improving," Bassett-Seguso said. "I think her temperament and just the way she conducts herself on the court - she's definitely going to be an asset to Canadian tennis in the years to come. I think we're going to be hearing a lot from her.
"Now to see such a talented young lady emerge onto the scene - just the way her composure is - is absolutely awesome. I couldn't be prouder to see that we're starting to get back on the map. Tennis is such a great game."
Bouchard faces a tough task in the semifinals on Thursday, facing two-time and defending Australian Open finalist Li Na. The World No.4 has a massive following in Asia-Pacific and steamrolled two Top 30 opponents in the round of 16 and quarterfinals - dropping just six games in four sets to Ekaterina Makarova and Flavia Pennetta.
"Genie's going to have her work cut out for her with Li," Bassett-Seguso assessed. "But I think she has no pressure. She's going to go out there and I think Li has a lot of pressure on her, especially from her country, being in the Top 5. So I'm just going to think positively and I'm sure she's going to go out there with a strong game plan. Hopefully she gets a lot of first serves in and that her percentages are better than Li's."
Bassett-Seguso, who reached a career-high ranking of No.8, is no stranger to the spotlight, not only reaching the US Open semifinals and three other Grand Slam quarterfinals, but also defeating three Top 10 players as a qualifier en route to the championship match at Amelia Island in 1983 - at 15 years old. There, she was up 4-2, 30-0 in the third set before falling to tennis legend Chris Evert.
Throughout those achievements and big moments, however, she wishes she had taken the time to savor those moments - and wants to will that advice along to Bouchard.
"I would tell her to enjoy the moment and to really feel it when she walks out onto the court," Bassett-Seguso said. "I look back at my career and - it's not like you don't take advantage of it - but you feel like it's never going to end. I walked on the main stadium at the US Open to play Chris Evert like it was no big deal. In retrospect, it's a huge deal."
That's sound advice given to someone who has worked her way up the rankings throughout the past year, earning the WTA's Newcomer Of The Year award in 2013. And according to her Canadian predecessor, she is just beginning to build her legacy.
"She's already a super-successful Canadian tennis player. It's a lot harder now than it used to be. I think anybody that has already achieved what she has, done it steadily, still maintained their focus and just keeps getting better is, to me, already a success. It might take her a few months to be a top player, but there's no doubt in my mind she's going to be Top 10. She has the mentality and composure in the way she conducts herself - and you feel her spirit. And - of course - she's Canadian."