When Eugenie Bouchard was only five years old playing in her weekly tennis group with twin sister Beatrice, it was clear the sport was her thing. While Beatrice was content playing with the balloons and jumping into hula hoops, ‘Genie’ was left frustrated with the measly 10 minutes of hitting time in their one-hour session.
Bouchard clearly was itching to dive head-first into the world of tennis. At just eight years old, the Canadian entered her first tournament, and by nine she was travelling to France to play.
Fast-forward to June 2012, and the 18-year-old Bouchard found herself raising the junior girls’ Wimbledon trophy proudly above her head as first Canadian player to win a singles Grand Slam, carving her name into her nation’s history books.
It was a monumental moment in Bouchard’s career, one that made it clear she was ready for the transition from juniors to seniors.
“I was definitely proud of what I did,” Bouchard said.
“I also won the warm-up tournament to Wimbledon and I won the doubles in both of those tournaments as well, so I had a really good streak on the grass. I was just really proud to win.”
Speaking to australianopen.com following her opening round defeat of Brazilian Teliana Pereira in the 2013 Australian Open women’s qualifying singles, the world No.145 touched on her future aspirations alongside the intriguing status of tennis in Canada.
As one of Canada’s up-and-comers – alongside men’s world No.15 Milos Raonic and women’s No.41 Aleksandra Wozniak – Bouchard believes her country has a bright future in the sport, and is excited by the possibility of helping promote it back home.
"I hope to be the future," she said.
“If little kids (in Canada) look up to me one day and want to play tennis because of me, I would just take that as a huge honour. That’s definitely my goal.
“Now it’s time to move on and play the pros. This is where I want to be so I’m really excited.
While Bouchard is clearly driven by her career goals, she maintains a vibrant life away from the court to keep her fresh and motivated.
One of her closest friends, Great Britain’s Laura Robson, is someone who the Canadian says helps her relax away from her often chaotic tennis schedule.
“We like to gossip, which is maybe not the best thing,” Bouchard laughed.
“We have a lot in common obviously, and so it’s nice to be friends with someone who’s going through the same things as you are.
“It’s also great to just not even talk about tennis and be normal friends even though we don’t have normal lives at all.”
The pair met in 2005 at the Open Super 12s event in Auray, France. They were selected purely by chance as doubles partners, and a strong friendship blossomed from there.
“We’ve been keeping in touch with Facebook and stuff so it’s fun when we’re playing some tournaments we can hang out off the court,” Bouchard explained.
“When we’re bored on the road we can come up with some crazy ideas.”
The pair are creative, too. Perhaps their most successful idea was a Gangnam Style parody video that was quick to go viral. They managed to rope in some of the world’s best players – notably Maria Sharapova, Sam Stosur, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Fernando Verdasco – to create a clip that has had almost 342,000 views.
“People are still talking to me about it and asking me about it and begging for a part two,” Bouchard said, shaking her head with a smile.
“It was really cool that we got some featured celebs in there. They were super nice and totally willing to do a fun video ... I think it’s fun to show off-court stuff not be too serious all the time.”
But with play also comes work, and there’s no doubting Bouchard is on the right track. On top of her Wimbledon success. In 2012, she also won three IT F tournaments – most notably the $50,000 event in Toronto – and reached the final of Saguenay in Canada. She sits at No.145 in the WTA rankings – 393 places higher than where she was at the end of 2010.
This year marks Bouchard’s first away from the junior circuit, a transition she admits will be a huge challenge but one that she’ll need to undertake to achieve her goal of reaching the top 100.
“It’s definitely a lot tougher,” she explained.
“I think at the pro level the players are much mentally stronger. If you’re up, then the girls won’t give up, whereas maybe in the juniors they would crack.
“I think mentally is the toughest area, so I need to be better there.”
While only time can reveal the level of success Bouchard will reach in 2013, one thing’s for certain: she’ll sure look the part on court.
Bouchard is one of the few players who proudly sports Maria Sharapova’s Nike clothing line, one that the Canadian deemed the “nicest clothes in tennis”.
Wearing the classy outfits also provided the Canadian with an opportunity that many 18-year-old girls could only dream of: an official Nike photoshoot with the world No.2.
“I was a little intimidated at first but (Sharapova) was really nice and it was fun to just be there with her,” Bouchard said.
“She must do a bunch of those shoots and I’ve done a few but that was probably the biggest, especially with her.”
Photoshoots, parody videos and restaurant tours in Southbank with her mother Julie aside, Bouchard’s time in Melbourne will be squarely focused on reaching her inaugural Grand Slam main draw berth via the Australian Open qualifiers.
Well, that, and perhaps beginning to work on her second viral YouTube hit with Robson. Or perhaps filming has already begun?
“Maybe there’s one in the works,” Bouchard teased.
“But I’m not going to reveal anything yet.”