“I’m disappointed I didn’t put on a better show for her.”
That was the sentiment from Canada’s own Eugenie Bouchard nearly three weeks ago after falling to the Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova in straight sets in the Wimbledon Final.
Bouchard was referring to Princess Eugenie of York, the second female in the line of succession to the thrones of the 16 Commonwealth States.
Let’s get this straight for a second.
Genie Bouchard is 20 years old. Genie Bouchard is disappointed she didn’t perform to a better standard in front of a royal entourage.
While Princess Eugenie may be one of the more recognizable fans Genie Bouchard earned during her historic run at Wimbledon, she certainly wasn’t the loudest. Bouchard not only endeared herself to the British Tennis faithful, she created a brand new household name in tennis to all the people back in Canada in the now famous Genie Army.
Advancing further than any Canadian ever in the prestigious competition has cemented the native of Westmount, Quebec forever in our history and our hearts.
Her accomplishment flies in the face of the pressure she's faced with.
You can bet that Genie Bouchard was well aware of this possibility before she stepped on the plane to head overseas.
How about societal pressures such as resisting the urge to condemn the ridiculous need of mainstream journalism to cheapen and sexualize the accomplishments of female athletes?
Should a nation’s attention be called to the fact that yes, Genie Bouchard is indeed female, and this somehow has a bearing on how society perceives her talent on the court?
Ask yourself: could you focus on your serve or your backhand knowing what kind of money was at stake? Could you keep your fists in your pocket if you were asked about dating Justin Bieber?
I couldn’t. Good thing Genie Bouchard doesn’t care what silly people think.
Tennis is an individual sport. Playing at six in the morning against one opponent with no one watching is one thing - competing at the game’s highest level with the hopes of your entire country resting on your shoulders and the captivated inspiration of the entire world?
That’s something else entirely.
So how does Genie do it? How is it possible for a 20 year-old athlete to resist the blood rushing to her face and the waves of nerves threatening to wash over her as she awaits her opponent’s serve?
All the skill in the world doesn’t help if an athlete has no way to keep calm.
No one can say for certain exactly which mental device Bouchard uses to calm herself during a match, but there’s three elements she no doubt calls on during her most stressful rallies.
When asked a silly question in an interview about whether she would consider referring to herself as a North American rather than a Canadian, Bouchard laughed out loud, screwed up her face and moved on.
On national television, the temptation to give in and indulge this journalist would have been overwhelming for most athletes.
Not Genie Bouchard.
An athlete who believes in themselves and their abilities doesn’t crack under the watchful eye of the press, their parents or their coaches.
An athlete who’s prepared to play is prepared to answer questions about their abilities, their strengths and their weaknesses.
Due to a 5 minute rain delay after the Wimbledon Final, Bouchard actually watched as the championship trophy was engraved with Kvitova’s name.
Months of rigorous training and sacrifice had just flown out of the roof of the All England Club and this young athlete was forced to watch the name of her opponent get carved into history.
“Yeah, it was a little odd,” she said afterwards. “I sat down. I put my jacket on. Just reflected. I was in the engraver's room, so I was watching them work, wishing one day, dreaming that he'll write my name somewhere.”
Five minutes after the crushing blow of loss, and Genie Bouchard was already dreaming of her next chance.
So, where does Genie Bouchard find her focus?
Within Genie Bouchard.
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