*Originally published on White Cover Magazine…
Eugenie Bouchard is refreshing. Not really for tennis, because there have been female supernovas in the sport before and there have been beautiful ones, too, like Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic.
But she’s refreshing for Canada.
It’s not just that she’s already the greatest female player in the Great White North’s tennis history. It’s that she’s just so wicked, so composed, so confident, so unapologetic and expecting of her success… she’s do damn un–Canadian.
Our nation has flirted with being cool and being American (in the good ways, like Hollywood or Hawaii) at times, patting ourselves on the back and being loud and proud of our home cooking during the 2010 Winter Olympics, when the red and white won a record 14 gold medals in Vancouver, when we were so into ourselves that some jackass in Texas compared us to Hitler’s Germany. We’re more than happy to boast about our country’s invention of the game of hockey, our breeding of men like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr. We’ll gladly remind any Yankee close enough that we invented basketball, that we beat them in one odd 150-metre race they have conveniently forgotten, and that we gave them Mike Myers and Ryan Gosling and Lorne Michaels. We’ll even keep Justin Bieber in our back pocket, just in case he’s cool once again someday.
But all of those above are exceptions to the stereotype we often deserve. By bringing then, we’re almost throwing ourselves further away from them, reminding whoever we’re telling them to that it’s really not us.
Normally, we’re polite… hell, we’re too polite. We say ‘Sorry’ and all that, like, all the time. We’re goofy and underpopulated. But we’ll keep it that way. We’re small town but we’ve got wide borders.
We’re also small-minded – our greatest moments in anything not hockey are one-off events like Mike Weir’s Masters or Donovan Bailey’s gold medal or Larry Walker’s MVP. Even the Bluenose and that time we burned down the White House in the War of 1812. (Yeah, we actually brag about that, Detroit.)
But then along comes Genie Bouchard.
A lot of Canadians have pretended to be all-business, but Genie’s not even thinking about what happened yesterday, not even entertaining the idea of a loss tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next.
There’s nothing on purpose about her purpose.
“I felt like, it should have happened a game earlier,” she said on Thursday, when asked what she was thinking when she clinched her first-ever appearance in a Grand Slam final, at Wimbledon.
Yes, she was thinking about the game or two she gave back, even after beating Simona Halep in straight sets, 7-6 and then 6-2.
“You know, it’s not a surprise to me. I expect good results like this… For me, I was like, ‘Okay good.’ It’s a step in the right direction. I get to play in the final. And, you know, I still have another match so it’s not a full celebration yet.”
Sure, we’ve heard our athletes say stuff like that before. But doesn’t it always feel like they’re just saying it?
In ice hockey, Crosby always says confident things, stuff about giving 110 percent or playing as a team or it’s not over until it’s over and whatever else he’s been told to say. But it was Ovechkin who came into the league at age 19 and said his favourite NHL player was himself. It was Ryan Kesler who beaked his own goalie – Roberto Luongo – on national television during the Canada-USA gold medal game in 2010. It was Michael Johnson who challenged Bailey to that race way back when.
And although most of those swagger-y examples above weren’t followed by wins, don’t you just sometimes wish we Canadians could be the cocky ones?
Don’t you just wish we could have a Muhammad Ali, the kind of athlete who doesn’t stop talking because he – or she – knows he – or she – can back it up?
“I get to make history again,” Bouchard vibrantly giggled in London, previewing her final on Saturday. “It’s always exciting and special when I can make history.”
Man, she’s so cool.
Every time she spoke on Thursday, she had this wide, beaming smile, like she knew herself what she had just accomplished, like she sees what we all see when we see her, whether she’s owning another player on the court or controlling a room of frothing journalists at the All-England Club.
She even finds time to slide those little Canadian-isms into every quote of hers, the “you know” and “like” and the “yeah, so” and that faint but noticeable accent all of us Canucks have.
She wears an oversized hoodie, with the sleeves comfortably stretched over her palms, like Barney Stinson wears a suit.
Even her answers to questions about Justin Bieber, those look like they’re more annoying for her to deal with than anything, but she answers them and she gives the masses what they want – like she’s just tossing those reporters a quote or two she knows they’ll love, not unlike you give a seagull a bread crumb when you want it to stop following you, maybe not knowing that will – of course – only give it more reason to follow you.
When one reporter asked her today whether her breakthrough at Wimbledon was like her big bang, referencing Bouchard’s supposed favourite show – The Big Bang Theory – the 20-year-old only paused to laugh at the dude’s expense before she shut him and his silly little mind down.
“Someone made that really lame joke a few days ago,” she said. “And I called him out on it, so I’m going to have to say that was really lame. Again.”
Fair enough. But then again, can you blame the guy?
The entire tennis world is a puddle at her feet right now. They don’t know what to say to this perfect post-teenager with the world in her hand.
Or her racket, rather.