(August 6, 2013) TORONTO -There has been a lot of noise about a rising generation of WTA stars, and with good reason. Some of the biggest rising names belong to large, English speaking countries such as the United Kingdom’s Laura Robson or the United States’ Sloane Stephens. With tennis returning to Canada at the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in Toronto, the national spotlight has turned to Eugenie Bouchard – just 19 years old, and already ranked No. 62 in the world.
While her opening round night match against recently returning Alisa Kleybanova on Canada’s largest tennis stage might be an anxious ask for an average 19 year old, it wasn’t Bouchard’s first time on Toronto’s centre court. In fact, the young Canadian is quickly becoming accustomed to the big stage after defeating Ana Ivanovic on arguably the most prestigious stage in tennis – Wimbledon’s centre court. “Wimbledon is the biggest stage in tennis, so playing centre court there was extremely special. But of course I love playing at home in Canada in front of my fans, and I want to show how well I can play, so I was definitely a little bit nervous before this match.”
Alisa Kleybanova has just recently returned to main tour action after a stint with hodgkins lymphoma, and it was fantastic to see her on court. She won some excellent points and still possesses the power that helped her once reach top 20 in the world. “Obviously Alisa is a great player. I’m sure she will get back to being really good.” Despite Kleybanova only recently returning, Bouchard wasn’t sure what to expect and knew she needed to play aggressively. “I wasn’t too sure what to be prepared for, but I felt like I was ready for anything. I was able to play really solid today. I was happy.”
After a series of breaks in the first set, Bouchard calmed down and began to take control of the match, eventually winning 6-3, 6-1. “I think it’s been a while since I played a match where we broke each other so much in a row.” She showed excellent court awareness, and looked comfortable both absorbing Kleybanova’s power and keeping the ball deep. Bouchard is quick around the court and has always had good wrist strength to put excellent spin on the ball when necessary. However, her improved power in her flatter strokes held up well against a big hitter, and at times she counterpunched superbly. “She hits big shots, but I was still able to control the point… Even if she was hitting big, I was staying with her, so I could just easily go from defense to offense.”
She will need more of the same Wednesday night as she takes on one of the WTA’s biggest hitters and defending Rogers Cup champion Petra Kvitova. “Yeah, time to take the defending champ down,” she said, laughing. “She’s a great player. I’m just really excited I will play at home on centre court in front of the crowd. It’s always so fun for me.”
Overall, it was an excellent day for Canada as a combined eight Canadians advanced in both the Montreal and Toronto tournaments. With six men advancing in Montreal, this is the first time in 40 years that even five have advanced beyond the first round. Canadian Sharon Fichman also advanced, defeating fellow countrywoman Stephanie Dubois in a 2 hour and 49 minute marathon, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.
Brodie Elgin is the writer of mindtheracket.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @MindTheRacket. He is covering the Rogers Cup in Toronto for Tennis Panorama News, follow @TennisNewsTPN for updates.