Bouchard whipped up a storm in Melbourne at the start of the year with her tenacious tennis and poster-girl good lucks. Hordes of Australian fans took to her like one of their own as she fought through to the semi-finals and since then her growing fan club, dubbed ‘Genie’s Army’, has expanded around the world.
“I got some toys thrown to me actually after my practice this morning,” she said after her first round Wimbledon win over Daniela Hantuchova. “That was pretty motivating. I got Cinderella as well. I got a person. I like to think that's me. Someone gave it to me because I'm a princess. But it's Wimbledon, so we're a little bit more subdued here than elsewhere. It's the tradition. I like that.”
Twelve months ago few had heard of Bouchard apart from the dedicated tennis aficionados. Making her main draw debut she turned a few heads by knocking out Ana Ivanovic on the way to round three but the talent was still very raw. Bouchard was pegged as a future world beater, but few expected the transformation to come quite so swiftly.
Her liking for the big stage has seen her make the semi-finals at both Melbourne Park and Roland Garros, and many would argue that she deserves to be ranked far higher than her current placing at No.13 in the list.
“I feel more eyes on me, for sure, and expectation to win more matches,” she said. “Being higher ranked than most opponents most of the time, there's that expectation to win. I really try not to focus on it. There's so much that's said around me, I try to ignore most of it and focus on my game. That's the most important thing. Try to play as well as I can, try to improve.”
Beneath the girlish charm, there’s always been a cool focus and determination about Bouchard which has propelled her into the big time far faster than some of her junior contemporaries such as Sloane Stephens and Laura Robson, both of whom have shown flashes of brilliance but have struggled to find the mental fortitude necessary to produce their best on a consistent basis.
Some would even argue that Bouchard is a serious dark horse for the women’s title this year and the draw has thrown up the enticing prospect of a fourth round ‘Battle of the Generations’ clash against Serena Williams. Williams is smarting after her early exit at the French Open but Bouchard insists she has yet to even consider that eventuality.
“It's really not on my mind at all. It's cliché to say, but it's important to focus on one match at a time. If I don't win my second round, I'm not going to be in the fourth round. To me there's zero point in looking ahead to past the next match. That's when I feel I'm the most focused, so I really don't worry about it.”
She needed all her focus in her first round clash with Hantuchova. The Slovak may be past the peak which saw her once ranked No.5 in the world but she’s still a dab hand on grass, winning the Birmingham title last year, and her penetrating groundstrokes gave Bouchard more than a few problems before she pulled through 7-5, 7-5.
“I expected a tough match, and it was a tough one,” she said. “I definitely feel like I didn't play my best most of the match, but competed when it counted, raised my level at some big points. I felt like I was a bit inconsistent. I didn't take the ball as early as I would have liked to. She was definitely trying to be the one in control. I felt myself more on defense more often than I'd like to be.”
“At least I realized this during the match and tried to make some adjustments in the second set. It's important for me to kind of start the match that way from now on. But the first match of a tournament, especially a Grand Slam, is always a bit nervy.”