MONTRÉAL, Canada - We all knew she had big things on the horizon, but few expected that horizon to come so quickly. Grand Slam after Grand Slam Eugenie Bouchard just kept proving she's the real thing this year, and at the end of it all she's been voted WTA Most Improved Player Of The Year.
Bouchard's 2013 was already huge - first WTA final in Osaka, finishing as the No.1 teenager, WTA Newcomer Of The Year. But she took it to a whole new level in 2014, predominantly at the Grand Slams, beginning with semifinals at the Australian Open and French Open. She was just the second Canadian to reach a Grand Slam semifinal, after Carling Bassett-Seguso, and the first to do it twice.
At Wimbledon she made it all the way to the final, which made her the first Canadian, male or female, ever to reach a Grand Slam final. It also propelled her into the Top 10 at No.7 in the world, which made her the highest-ranked Canadian woman in history - Bassett-Seguso's career-high was No.8.
In the fall Bouchard would go as high as No.5 in the world, which made her the first Canadian, male or female, ever to break into the Top 5. Milos Raonic made it to No.6 on the ATP World Tour.
And after going in-market to officially launch the Road To Singapore in January, Bouchard actually ended up qualifying for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global in October.
But all the improvements in Bouchard's results and numbers had to come from somewhere, and they were the products of her souped-up game. This year she had more power, more precision, took the ball way, way earlier, returned from inside the baseline - she basically brought a new brand of aggression to the game, and all the confidence that comes with that as well, fearing no one on any court.
The new WTA Most Improved Player Of The Year is already looking to keep improving, too.
"I'm honored to be voted the WTA Most Improved Player Of The Year. Thank you for voting!" she said.
"My goal is to try to improve every single day, and I feel like I did that this year. But while I'm proud of my accomplishments, I've already set new goals I want to strive to reach next year.
"I look forward to continuing to improve!"
Bouchard is the first player born in 1992 or later, on both the men's and women's side, to reach the Top 10 (and she was born in 1994). She's currently the youngest player in the WTA's Top 25.
Almost half of the WTA's 21 No.1s - 10 of them - received WTA Most Improved Player before they first rose to No.1, namely Steffi Graf, Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario, Monica Seles, Martina Hingis, Serena Williams, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina. Six of them got it the year before they became No.1 (Graf, Seles, Hingis, Sharapova, Ivanovic and Safina).
The WTA Awards are voted for by a combination of media and fans. Bouchard won both categories - she received 45 of 58 media votes and 49% of fan votes (Karolina Pliskova was next with 23%).