In the couple of days after she broke through with the biggest win of her career, Eugenie Bouchard watched Canada’s men’s tennis team make history.
The 19-year-old from Montreal doesn’t have to look far for inspiration for her team’s Fed Cup tie against Ukraine next week. She heads there both having cracked the world top-100 rankings for the first time and spurred on by the Canadian men’s Davis Cup performance in Vancouver.
“It’s really great what (the men) did, they made history so that’s impressive,” Bouchard said on a conference call from Montreal. “The Fed Cup team definitely wants to follow in their footsteps, so it just gives us motivation. It’s our turn to show we can win too.”
Canada’s men — Milos Raonic, Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil — defeated Italy last week to advance to the Davis Cup semis, reaching the final four for the first time in history.
The women’s team of Bouchard, from Westmount, Que., Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa, Stephanie Dubois of Laval, Que., and Toronto’s Sharon Fichman will face Ukraine in a World Group II play-off tie in Kyiv, April 20-21. The winner of the best-of-five tie will be one of eight teams to qualify for World Group II in 2014.
Bouchard, the reigning Wimbledon junior singles champion, is coming off a career performance, reaching the quarter-finals of the Family Circle Cup last week despite having to go through qualifying to reach the main draw. She beat world No. 9 Samantha Stosur in the third round before losing to former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic.
“I was able to see what some of the best players in the world are able to play like,” Bouchard said on what she learned from the experience. “It’s great when I can play against girls in the top 10, top 20. It shows me what I need to improve and what I need to do to get to their level.”
Stosur had her right leg wrapped in the match with Bouchard and withdrew two games into the second set of the match with a calf injury. Stosur lost the first set 6-1 and was down 2-0 in the second.
“Against Stosur, I felt like I was really in the match, I was playing really well and I was playing my game,” Bouchard said. “I was controlling the points and kind of taking it to her.”
She dropped a 6-2, 6-1 decision to Jankovic in the quarter-finals, but her final-eight berth propelled her 19 spots up to 95 in the world rankings.
“Against Jankovic I felt like I wasn’t doing that as well, I was disappointed that I didn’t play my best, but she was playing well and she was very consistent, and it just shows me that I need to do those things better to get to the top,” she said.
Bouchard made her Fed Cup debut in 2011 against Slovenia, winning her first singles match in an eventual 3-2 loss for Canada. She then won all four of her singles matches in the Americas Zone Group I event in Medellin, Colombia in February.
The young Canadian credited her rise up the ranks to “a lot of years of hard work. I’ve always believed in myself so it’s not like a surprise to have cracked the top 100.
“But it’s definitely not my end goal. I have a long road ahead of me and a lot of things I need to work on, and a lot of hard work needs to keep going into it, and I think I can get to the top.”
Bouchard said she needs to improve her consistency.
“During matches against these top girls, it’s really important to be mentally strong because they are the toughest mentally and they won’t give you anything,” she said.
Canada won all four of their ties in Colombia to finish first at the event and earn a spot in the World Group II playoffs. Canada last competed in World Group II in 2011.
“This is the same team that led us to victory in Colombia and I am confident that they will be up to the challenge once again in Ukraine,” captain Sylvain Bruneau said. “It’s a team that is young but also has experience, and we’re ready to go in Ukraine.”
Dabrowski made her Fed Cup debut in Colombia winning all three of her doubles matches, including the decisive third rubber with Fichman in the final against Brazil which qualified Canada for a World Group II play-off.
Dubois will make her 24th Fed Cup tie appearance. The 26-year-old has maintained a 23-10 record since making her debut in 2004.
Fichman has earned 20 victories and just six losses since making her Fed Cup debut in 2005. She earned five wins in singles and doubles in Colombia, earning a nomination for the Fed Cup Heart Award.
Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., Canada’s No. 1 singles player, is still recovering from a shoulder injury suffered last September, and won’t play in Kyiv.