Photo Credit: Daniel Karmann/AP
The story of Eugenie Bouchard’s rise in tennis just keeps getting more interesting. She keeps rewriting Canadian tennis history and in the process is becoming part of Canadian tennis history. Years from now, people will be talking about her the same way people are talking about Carling Bassett and Helen Kelesi now. The fine and career-defining results that Bassett and Kelesi put up during their short careers in the 1980s are now being eclipsed by Bouchard. The results that Bouchard is putting up will (hopefully, for the sake of Canadian tennis) be eclipsed by the next Canadian female singles player that comes along.
By reaching semifinals of majors (the Australian Open, the French Open) and winning tournaments, Bouchard is in uncharted territory – not navigated by any player before her. Her victory in Nuremberg as her very first title was a surprise – but that is the way it usually happens isn’t it? Bassett’s win in Strasbourg in 1987 was a complete surprise, coming at the back end of her short career. Aleksandra Wozniak’s win in Stanford in 2008 was also a complete surprise, coming at the beginning of her career.
Bouchard’s win in Nuremberg was on clay – a surface that is not particularly suited to her attack the ball on every point style of play. She didn’t beat any major player on her way to the title – it just sort of happened. Her success at the French Open is equally surprising. She hasn’t been known for her clay game. It has been the hyper-aggressive play on fast surfaces that was supposed to be her forte.
My interest in tennis happens to coincide with the beginning of the very first successes that Canadian tennis players had – back in the 1980s. Those players (Carling Bassett and Helen Kelesi) laid the groundwork for future success. Unfortunately, their success did not translate into success for the generation that came after them. It took until the late 2000s before any substantial results started to happen again – the now golden age of Canadian tennis that is currently underway.
Eugenie Bouchard’s first WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) singles tennis title follows a short list of Canadians who have won singles titles on the WTA. Carling Bassett (1983, 1987), Helen Kelesi (1986, 1988), Patricia Hy (1986), Jill Hetherington (1988) and Aleksandra Wozniak (2008) are the only other Canadians who have won singles titles on the WTA Tour. You can now add Eugenie Bouchard to that elite and short list.
It should be noted that Canada has had far more success in professional doubles tennis than in singles on both the men’s and women’s tours. It seems that Daniel Nestor has more than propped up tennis in Canada while the country was waiting for its next big singles player to come along. Bassett, Kelesi, Hetherington, Nestor, Grant Connell, Glenn Michibata and Sebastian Lareau all won pro tour doubles titles for Canada during their careers.
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