Bouchard becoming a headliner in New York

Canadian tennis star Eugenie Bouchard enjoying the New York spotlight

Eugenie Bouchard has had the attention of fans and the spotlight all over the world in 2014

By Bill Scott, The Canadian Press

NEW YORK – After her recent starring role on Centre Court at Wimbledon, Canadian Eugenie Bouchard hopes to become a headliner in New York.

Bouchard and men’s fifth seed Milos Raonic are Canada’s last representatives in the main singles draw at the U.S. Open.

The 20-year-old Bouchard, the only woman to have reached the semifinals or better of the three Grand Slams played this season, has a third-round date Saturday night with Czech veteran Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, the 30th seed whom Bouchard has defeated in previous meetings in Osaka last autumn and in Nurnberg on clay this spring.

Bouchard’s love of the spotlight seems to be a perfect fit for the rowdy New York crowd, which has been known to make its loves and hates known in direct fashion through only-in-Gotham screams of encouragement at any time in a match.

The seventh-seeded native of Westmount, Que., got a taste of that atmosphere when she beat Romanian Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-4 in the second round Thursday.

The cultural opposite of the sedate and polite Wimbledon crowds, New York’s beer-fuelled masses never hesitate to make their presence known to players.

That’s more than fine with Bouchard.

“I heard some (shouts) vaguely,” she said of her opening match on the big stage at Arthur Ashe stadium. “I really try to block it out and zone in.

“I just felt there was noise all the time. The changeovers were like a party scene on the court, the loud music, the fans. It was definitely an entertainment type of experience.

“I think that’s really cool for the fans to get into it. But I definitely felt the support out there. It’s really cool playing in such a huge stadium. It’s like nothing else, I guess.”

Bouchard said that even late starting times and post-midnight finishes are all a part of the particular ambience.

“It’s part of the U.S. Open experience. You don’t get there at the French Open or Wimbledon,” she said.

“It’s exciting, I would be fine playing at midnight, that would be cool.”

Bouchard is expecting a battle from Zahlavova Strycova, but the Canadian said she will be ready.

“She definitely doesn’t hit it as hard (as Cirstea),” Bouchard said. “She can get a lot of balls back. I’ll try to be more aggressive, that will be my main goal in my next match.”

Raonic, meanwhile, remains outwardly unimpressed by the backstory to his Saturday morning opponent, Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic.

The 34-year-old Burgos is the oldest debutant in U.S. Open history. But instead of taking notice of the 80th-ranked Dominican’s boisterous local fan base, or the story of the one-time ball boy quit who the sport for five years only to return for one last try, it will be tennis business as usual for the serious-minded Raonic.

“I played him 2010. I saved a few match points in a Davis Cup match against him,” the Thornhill, Ont., native said. “Things are very different now. We were both a similar ranking at that time — probably 400, maybe 300s at that time, getting close to 200.

“I broke through later that fall. Now I’m whatever it is and he’s top 100 player. That match, considering what’s going to happen in two days, has almost no value.”

Raonic will not be intimidated by the vocal fans that even Burgos had to try and control in his second-round New York win.

“I’ve been in a lot of difficult situations, playing Davis Cup in Serbia, all these kind of things,” Raonic said. “Those things don’t really matter.

“I think it’s fun when there’s a good atmosphere on the court.”

In men’s doubles second-round action, Toronto’s Daniel Nestor continued his match towards his ninth Grand Slam title when he and partner Nenad Zimonjic defeated the Colombian duo of Nicolas Barrientos and Santiago Giraldo 6-2, 6-2.

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