Canada's Bouchard writing history with each victory

{eot} Staff
1/21/2014 2:00:20 PM
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Eugenie Bouchard - a star is born :) - Martina Navratilova's tweet on Tuesday morning (@Martina)

Yes, the endorsement of one of the legends of women's tennis must mean that Eugenie Bouchard has truly arrived.

The 19-year-old's trajectory from junior champion to WTA regular to seeded Grand Slam player to Australian Open semifinalist has been nothing short of amazing.

And in making her run to the final four of the first major event of the 2014 season, the native of Westmount, Quebec is practically writing history with each victory.

"You can't teach that, you're born with it," added ESPN analyst and tennis great Chris Evert. "The way she held herself together, the way she played in the clutch, nothing fazed her and that's a gift she has."

When it comes to women's singles, Canada's two best performances have both come at the U.S. Open - and both more than two decades ago. Patricia Hy-Boulais advanced to the quarterfinals in 1992, while Carling Bassett made it to the semifinals there in 1984.

In fact, Bassett still has the record of holding Canada's highest-ever singles ranking. She was No. 8 in the world early in 1985 after making four Grand Slam quarterfinals in the two years prior.

With Bouchard's victory over Ana Ivanovic on Monday, the Canadian is projected to rise from No. 31 into the world's Top 20 in the first rankings after the Australian Open.

Milos Raonic, who peaked at No. 10 last year, is already the highest-ranked men's player in Canadian history.

Bouchard's rapid rise, coupled with that of Raonic and Vasek Pospisil on the men's side, marks a new era of Canadian singles tennis that has never been seen before.

Which isn't to ignore the career success of Toronto's Daniel Nestor. Long ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles until recently, Nestor has won eight Grand Slam titles (including the career Slam) and an Olympic gold medal. But the glamour of singles has always kept Nestor's achievements a step removed from the mainstream.

Bouchard's advancement to the last four in Melbourne is stunning mostly for how fast it happened. One year ago, she was playing qualifying matches in Melbourne and did not make the main draw. The summer before that, she was still a junior and captured both singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon. She made her Grand Slam debut at the 2013 French Open and has now made a semifinal is just her fourth major appearance - and her very first at the Australian Open.

Bouchard's rapid rise has brought new interest to a sport that has until recently, offered Canadians few opportunities to root on homegrown players at the highest levels of the game.

A star is born, indeed.

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