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Canadian Bouchard fine with contentious 'Bieber' question

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The Canadian Press
2/5/2014 4:31:48 PM
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MONTREAL -- Canadian tennis star Eugenie Bouchard says she had no problem with a controversial question she fielded at last month's Australian Open, moments after the biggest win of her career.

The 19-year-old from Westmount, Que., had just become the first Canadian to reach a Grand Slam semifinal in 30 years when she was asked by an on-court female interviewer who she would like to date, if she could choose anyone in the world.

Many observers quickly deemed the question sexist, with some asking whether a similar query would ever be put to a male athlete.

The exchange attracted even more attention because Bouchard, apparently caught off guard by the question, blurted out an unexpected response on live TV: "Um, Justin Bieber?" Her reference to the Canadian pop star seemed to be tongue-in-cheek.

Bouchard, who will represent Canada at this weekend's Federation Cup in Montreal, said Wednesday she thought the question was all in good fun and she was happy to play along.

"I think it was a fine question, you know, I think it's entertainment for the fans," Bouchard said when asked at a Fed Cup news conference if she thought the Australian Open question was sexist.

"It was actually a fan question, so at the end of the day, it's for the fans and, if that's what they're curious about, well that's fine by me."

The No. 19-ranked Bouchard said she might like to know more herself about who, for example, a certain soccer player would want to date.

Sometimes, she added, it can be fun to handle questions about something other than tennis because the answers might interest a broader audience.

When asked if she thought a male athlete might receive a similar question, Bouchard didn't directly respond, saying the fact she's a younger player might explain why she got such a query.

"You know, they wouldn't ask Roger Federer that question -- obviously, he's married and has kids," she said, referring to the 32-year-old Swiss tennis legend.

"But I don't know, maybe, I think they should (ask) other single tennis players. Why not?"

The question came after Bouchard, who was the 30th seed at the Australian Open, completed a stunning 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 upset of former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic.

The victory made her the first Canadian to reach the semis at a Grand Slam since Carling Bassett-Seguso at the 1984 U.S. Open.

Bouchard's impressive run in Melbourne came to an end a couple of days later when she lost 6-2, 6-4 to fourth-seeded Li Na of China in the semifinal.

But her accomplishments caught the attention of tennis fans in Canada and abroad, including a group of a dozen or so raucous Aussies who became her unofficial cheering section at every match.

The group, which dubbed itself the "Genie Army," wore T-shirts that spelled her name, belted out cheers composed just for her and tossed stuffed animals to her on the court following each of her appearances.

Bouchard was asked Wednesday about how much things have changed since her emergence at the Australian Open, where some commentators called her next big thing in women's tennis and a potential future Grand Slam tournament champion.

"For sure there's been more attention and I think it comes with the job," said Bouchard, who added that more people now recognize her on the street.

"It just shows, you know, if you have success on court, you'll get attention off the court. But my first priority is tennis and I focus on that and make sure I get everything I need to do done.

"And then if there's other attention off the court, well, that's a good thing."

Eugenie Bouchard (Photo: WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

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(Photo: WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
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