Eugenie Bouchard's new deal with global sports managing power WME-IMG has the Canadian tennis star being represented by the same agent as Serena Williams and opening new doors in the fashion world.
After a 2014 season in which she reached the Wimbledon final and broke into the WTA's top 10, the Montrealer chose not to renew with Lagardère, the agency that had handled her interests since she was 13. In her new deal, Bouchard also becomes a client of IMG Models, which will open fashion avenues to the 20-year-old, who already has a few magazine shoots under her belt.
Bouchard's new management team includes Jill Smoller and Brad Slater. Smoller's star client is currently Williams, the 18-time Grand Slam champion. Her other clients have included Kevin Garnett, Tim Tebow, Pete Sampras, Dennis Rodman and Florence Griffith Joyner. Slater represents Hollywood stars such as Kevin Costner, Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson and Ben Affleck.
"I am really excited about joining WME-IMG, a company that is in the best possible position to help me achieve my business goals and maximize the value of my brand," Bouchard said in a statement.
It's the same agency that handles Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic. IMG Models represents supermodels such as Gisele Bundchen and several "Angels" in the recent Victoria's Secret fashion show.
"It's highly significant, since IMG have a really good track record of signing the best – particularly the best golf and tennis players in the world and identifying them early – so clearly they see Bouchard as a future Grand Slam winner," said Nigel Currie, director of Britain-based sports marketing agency brandrapport.
"There is no shortage of major male global superstars, but there aren't nearly as many women, so when one comes along – as we've seen with Sharapova – it opens up a whole raft of opportunities. I would expect for Bouchard down the line deals like watches, cosmetics, luxury jewellery, likely developing her own line, much the same as Sharapova. It's a very competitive global marketplace, and IMG are dealing with the very biggest brands all the time."
Bouchard's celebrity status has exploded in the past year. She began 2014 at No. 32 in the WTA rankings, then reached back-to-back Grand Slam semi-finals at the Australian Open and Roland Garros and the final at Wimbledon before making the year-end WTA Finals, reserved for just the top eight women. She crashed the top 10 for the first time – soaring as high as No. 5 – and is a leading candidate for the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's top athlete of the year.
In her short downtime before returning to training in December, Bouchard snapped selfies with rapper Drake at a Toronto Raptors game and actress Emily Blunt during an international art show. She played in the Necker Cup – the world's most exclusive Pro Am – hosted by Sir Richard Branson, from which she tweeted a photo of herself dancing on a table with the billionaire. The World Wildlife Fund invited Coca-Cola's newest athlete to Manitoba to go dog-sledding and visit polar bears in the wild.
There has been speculation that she may do as Sharapova, Williams and Steffi Graf have done: pose for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Her deal with Nike is set to expire, so there could be room for her to join the stable of another apparel company – one less crowded with female tennis stars.
"Genie's unique combination of talent, mental fortitude and charisma make her the type of athlete who transcends sport; and the unparalleled opportunities and partnerships across WME-IMG in areas including tennis, marketing and modelling will help ensure she reaches a new level of global success," said WME-IMG co-CEO Patrick Whitesell and Fernando Soler, head of IMG's tennis division, in a joint statement.
Hiring a new coach is a top priority, as Bouchard recently parted ways with Nick Saviano, who had coached her out of his Florida academy since she was 12. Last week, she tweeted a photo with the caption "meet the new coach," but it was a shot of her on the court with a ball machine.