MONTREAL – Tennis fans in the city where it all began for Eugenie Bouchard weren’t discouraged by her tough loss in Saturday’s Wimbledon final.
A dozen children armed with their own rackets were among those who gathered to watch the match on big screens at Montreal’s Uniprix Stadium, where the 20-year-old rising star honed her skills.
There weren’t as many reasons to cheer as Tennis Canada organizers had hoped. Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic handily beat Bouchard 6-3, 6-0.
But her supporters maintain it won’t be long before she gets another shot at a Grand Slam title.
“I think the emotion got to Eugenie,” said Helene Guedehoussou, a 31-year-old fan who has followed Bouchard’s rise over the past few years.
“In the next final she’ll be able to manage her emotions better, but I’m still really proud of her.”
Bouchard’s Wimbledon performance was still one for the record books. She became the first Canadian to reach a Grand Slam singles final in the Open era.
It has been a breakthrough year for the native of Westmount, Que., a Montreal suburb. She has reached the semifinals at every Grand Slam event this season and moved up to 7th in the world after reaching the Wimbledon final.
Alexia Dorais, 11, said following Bouchard’s success makes her excited to play more herself.
“I really want to continue,” said Dorais, who already hits the court several times a week.
“I know she started at a young age too, and I think to myself that maybe one day I can be like that too.”
Dorais isn’t the only young Canadian taking to the sport.
In Bouchard’s hometown of Westmount, registration is up this year, particularly among young girls.
The city’s mayor, Peter Trent, said residents are “absolutely thrilled.”
“All Westmount eyes are fixed upon her,” Kent said. “She’s going to wonderful things, and at such an early age, to have already achieved so much.”
Across the country, Tennis Canada has noted a growth of three to five per cent a year over the past few years.
Valerie Tetreault, a former pro who now works for Tennis Canada, said the success of Bouchard and Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont. on the men’s side is changing the perception of Canadian tennis.
“I think it’s going to motivate kids to take rackets in their hands and play tennis. And that’s how we’re going to develop even more champions in the coming years,” she said.
Tetreault said she isn’t surprised by Bouchard’s success — though it happened faster than she expected.
When she saw her a decade ago, at a tennis complex in the Montreal suburb of Nun’s Island, Tetreault already knew Bouchard was special.
“I was training there at that time so I saw her when she was nine or ten years old and she was already someone you would look at, because she had a lot of talent, and was already very focused on the court,” she said.
Bouchard is set to return to Montreal and her former training grounds at Uniprix Stadium next month for the Rogers Cup, which runs from Aug. 1-10.