Sports

Canadian tennis star Eugenie Bouchard up for the challenge ahead of Rogers Cup

By Jane Stevenson, Toronto Sun

It was game, set, match for Eugenie Bouchard at a Rogers Cup skills challenge charity event in Toronto leading up to Canada’s biggest tennis tourney starting Aug. 5.

She may be currently ranked No. 69 in the world, but the 23-year-old Montreal tennis player, who is still Canada’s No. 1 female player, made mincemeat of hockey and baseball greats - 20-year-old Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid and 25-year-old Blue Jays starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez - on the courts.

Actually, it was all fun and games - literally five challenges with names like “hockey shutout” and “tennis keepups” - played out at Kew Gardens Tennis Club in Toronto’s The Beaches neighborhood - in front of young and old fans and the media.

“It was a pretty good day, I would say,” Bouchard, told the crowd before her victory meant a $5,000 donation to her favourite charity, Montreal Children’s Hospital.

“I don’t know if there are professional events of these but maybe I should start doing that.”

Leading into the Rogers Cup women’s event at York University’s Aviva Centre - the men begin their side of the tourney on Aug. 4 in Montreal - Bouchard said she was feeling good about her chances.

Such tough competitors as the 2017 Wimbledon champ Garbine Muguruza, 2017 Wimbledon runner-up Venus Williams and five-time Grand Slam champ Maria Sharapova, who Bouchard called a “cheater” after returning earlier this year from a 15-month doping ban after testing positive for meldonium during the 2016 Australian Open, are confirmed to attend.

“It’s always extra special to play in front of my Canadian fans,” Bouchard told a scrum of reporters.

“I’ve been training for a couple of weeks now since Wimbledon so I’m hoping to take some small steps in the right direction,” she added. “I’m playing D.C. next week so I just want to play as many tournaments as I can, so I’m playing the week before Toronto.”

Added McDavid at her side: “I’m not sure if you saw today but she’s the best athlete here. She’s got to be the favourite, right? And I hope Genie does really well. I usually try to make it up (to York) for one night. It’s always a fun time.”

After the challenge, Bouchard, a Wimbledon finalist in 2014 who was knocked out of the first round this year, signed photos for young fans who lined up for a chance to get a picture and an autograph.

“If I ever do inspire any one person, it’s always an honour,” Bouchard told reporters.

“I love seeing kids start playing tennis and being active in any sport really, just getting outside, that’s such an amazing thing, so if I’m a small part of that it’s an honour.”