The first Canadian tennis player to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam in three decades has an adoring – mostly male – fan base at the Australian Open, despite eliciting boos when she said she wanted to date pop star Justin Bieber.
Eugenie Bouchard, a 19-year-old from Westmount, Que., was buttonholed on the subject of which celebrity she would most like to date in an on-court interview after beating Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic in the second quarter-final on Tuesday.
“Um,” she said, giggling. “Justin Bieber.”
Spectators laughed and booed her response, and a camera cutaway to her personal cheering section – a group of young Australian men who call themselves the Genie Army – showed them looking disappointed, with one waving his arms in protest.
Still, a fan threw her a fuzzy wombat afterward, continuing the Genie Army’s tradition of giving her Australian-themed stuffed animals after her victories.
“I will create luggage space,” the rising star later said of her menagerie. “It’s worth it to take my wombat home.”
The 5-foot-10 blonde, who is already part of Nike’s roster of tennis athletes, also joked she would fly the Genie Army to all her tournaments.
Ms. Bouchard’s 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 marathon win Tuesday makes her only the second Canadian in history to reach the semi-finals at a major, following Carling Bassett, who did so at the 1984 U.S Open.
Coming off a breakout 2013 season, the 30th-seeded Ms. Bouchard prevailed over tournament No. 14-seed Ms. Ivanovic. She will play No. 4-seeded and 2011 French Open champion Li Na of China on Thursday (Wednesday in Canada).
In her post-match press conference, Ms. Bouchard said she was confident facing Ms. Ivanovic.
“It’s not exactly a surprise. I always expect myself to do well,” she told reporters. “I’m just happy to have, you know, gone through this step. I’m not done. I have a match on Thursday. I’m just looking forward to that.”
Ms. Bouchard is playing in the main draw of the Australian Open for the first time. She lost out in the qualifiers last year in Melbourne as she began her first full season on the senior WTA Tour.
She had opened the 2013 season ranked 147th in the world, and ended it at No.32, winning the Tour’s Newcomer of the Year award.
With reports from Rachel Brady and Reuters