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Now-recognizable Bouchard comes home for Fed Cup

Eugenie Bouchard of Canada reacts to a question from with television reporter Sam Smith during a post match interview following her quarterfinal win over Ana Ivanovic of Serbia at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014.

Andrew Brownbill/AP

It's been 18 months since she picked up a racquet in anger on a hometown court, which helps explain how Eugenie Bouchard has seemingly lost touch with Montreal's seasonal realities.

"It's really too cold for me here," the 19-year-old laughed Wednesday. "I'm a little anxious to get back on the road."

The 19th-ranked women's tennis player in the world is back in familiar surroundings for both pleasure - she has spent a few days hunkered down in her parents' house, reacquainting herself with her siblings - and business.

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Canada takes on a depleted Serbian squad in the Fed Cup this weekend, and Bouchard, whose semi-final run at the Australian Open last month vaulted her into the rarefied heights of international stardom, will command centre stage.

It's a place she's evidently going to have to get used to occupying.

Since losing to eventual champion Li Na on centre court in Melbourne, Bouchard has fulfilled her stated ambition of breaking into the top 20, made a whirlwind promotional trip to Singapore with tennis legend Chris Evert - "She said I reminded her of herself" - stopped off at her training base in Florida to relax and hone a couple of aspects of her game with her coach, and ventured to Montreal to represent her country in the premier international competition in women's tennis.

Bouchard is the first Canadian in 30 years to reach a Grand Slam singles semi-final; with ascendancy comes heightened expectations. It's something she not only realizes, but embraces.

"Whatever pressure comes, I'll deal with that," she said, and later expanded on the thought: "As [Hall of Fame player] Billie Jean King said, 'Pressure is an honour.'"

In addition to making strides on the court, Bouchard is attracting endorsement interest and busily establishing her personal brand; beyond athletic prowess, it helps to be a marketer's dream.

It's clearly something she's thought about - Bouchard has been set on being a professional since moving to Florida to train at 12.

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After the semi-final against Li, her father said she has been talking about handling off-court distractions for years. But there can be only one primary goal.

"The first priority is tennis, and I focus on that and make sure I get everything I need to do done," she said, and that if she can draw added attention beyond the court, "well, that's a good thing."

If it means being asked about her personal life - as she was in an on-court interview after defeating former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open - so be it.

"It was actually a fan question ... if that's what they're curious about, well, that's fine by me," she said.

When a reporter pointed out such questions are seldom asked of male athletes (Bouchard was asked which celebrity she might like to go on a date with; her awkward reply was pop star Justin Bieber), she said it likely had more to do with the fact she's a teenager than her gender.

At the same time, she allowed the same questions should be asked of men.

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"I'd be curious to know who a soccer player dates," she said, adding it can be refreshing to be asked about subjects other than tennis.

Bouchard is often commended by tennis analysts for her evident poise during matches; she exhibits similar aplomb during news conferences. Though Wednesday's appearance was nominally about the upcoming Fed Cup tie, all but a couple of questions were directed at Canada's fastest-rising star.

There are, of course, some points and sets to be disputed this weekend, and Bouchard headlines a strong team that will take to a temporary 4,000-seat indoor court at Complexe sportif Claude-Robillard to face a Serbian team without its top two players, Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic (ranked 12th and eighth in the world, respectively).

In addition to Bouchard, Canadian team captain Sylvain Bruneau will be able to count on seasoned Fed Cup veteran Aleksandra Wozniak, 26 - the country's most successful international women's player - 23-year-old doubles specialist Sharon Fichman of Toronto and 21-year-old Ottawa native Gabriela Dabrows

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More


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