All eyes will be on Euenie Bouchard at this week’s Rogers Cup WTA tournament. The Montreal-born tennis star shot to the top of her game last year, making history as the first ever Canadian, male or female, to reach the singles final at Wimbledon. Although she didn’t manage to take the top prize in that game, at just 21, she still has many opportunities ahead of her. But the 2015 season has been a struggle, with Bouchard unable to live up to high expectations and a persistent abdominal injury that’s affected her performance. Her ‘sophomore slump’ has seen her international ranking fall from 7th at the end of the 2014 season to 25th (as of August 10). Despite that fall in rankings, she’s still Canada’s top female player, and is unfailingly optimistic she can turn things back around. Perhaps a coaching change can help. Bouchard parted ways with her coach of six months Sam Sumyk just days before the opening of the Rogers Cup. (She broke ties with Nick Saviano, who’d been her coach since age twelve, last fall.)
Despite her rocky season, fans are hopeful for a comeback. A giant banner with her name and photo decorates the stadium’s exterior at Toronto’s Aviva Centre, where the WTA tournament will be played. At this past weekend’s opening festivities, a mob of fans lined up for autographs, and one lucky nine-year-old girl won the chance to play air hockey against the tennis star (Bouchard’s pint-sized opponent won, 4 to 3).
We got the chance to sit down with Bouchard following the match for an exclusive one-on-one, and she was eager to chat about how she’s been prepping to improve her game, something she calls ‘a 24-hour job.’
Training, nutrition and recovery
‘I train six days a week. Three to four hours of tennis a day, and probably about two hours in the gym. On top of that, I need to do my recovery’physio, massage’so it’s full, full working days,’ she says.
Another essential element is diet’and right now, that means eating even more than usual, in an effort to build muscle. In a recent tweet, she lamented, ‘Constantly trying to consume extra calories is hard #SoFull.’
Her solution to a quick a calorie fix: USANA Nutrimeal meal replacement shakes. (Her favourite flavour is Dutch Chocolate.) ‘Sometimes it’s hard to eat so much, so drinking a supplement helps. I’m able to drink it right after practice,’ she says. (USANA is the official health supplement supplier of the Women’s Tennis Association.)
With her abdominal injury still nagging, taking time to heal is essential, but difficult, for the aggressive, type-A player. ‘It’s healing,’ she tells us. ‘It’s probably a bit close to play [the Rogers Cup], but since it’s in [Canada], I really wanted to make an effort to play it.’
In an effort to improve her form for this week’s tournament, Bouchard skipped last week’s Citi Open in Washington D.C. ‘It’s been tough to have to take the time off to heal and then get back into training,’ she says. ‘When I don’t play for a while, I feel like I’ve lost a little bit of my feeling on the court, so it’s makes it that much harder. It’s been a grind, but it’s been going well. I’ve improved.’
Music that moves her
Bouchard’s no stranger to grinding it out. At game time, she’s all about getting her sweat on’before the match even begins. ‘Just before the match, I’ll run in the hallway or in the gym. I want to make sure I’m sweating so I feel warm enough to be out there,’ she says. To get pumped up, music is essential. ‘It gets me motivated to move,’ says Bouchard. But what’s on her playlist isn’t highly curated. ‘I like to listen to Top 40, anything that’s on the radio, top 10 on iTunes’ it’s not some cool indie band that no one’s head of. It’s really just cliché,’ she says. (Earlier this summer, the pop music fan tweeted her excitement at going backstage to meet Taylor Swift at the singer’s Montreal tour stop, and posted an Instagram video from the front row of a Shania Twain concert.
Relaxation doesn’t come easy
After a game, no matter the result, winding back down requires just as much metal effort. ‘In the match, you have so much adrenaline going. It takes a couple of hours for your body to relax after that. Night matches are especially tough, because it’s 11 p.m. or midnight and I need to try sleeping, but I just finished [playing]. A lot of times I can’t sleep until 2 or 3 a.m.’ she admits.
Post-game recovery typically involves a shower and a massage or physiotherapy to help her body relax. Mentally, ‘I try to think about something else besides the match that just happened, because I’m usually still worked up about it. I watch TV or try to keep it really low key,’ she says.
Time for hobbies is, unfortunately, not on her schedule at the moment. ‘When I do have time off, I don’t want to do anything physical. I’m a ‘lie on the couch’-type of person during my days off,’ says Bouchard. Biking and hiking in the park with her siblings (twin sister, Beatrice, and two younger siblings, Charlotte and William) are daydreams, and given the chance, she’d like to find herself at the beach. ‘I love swimming,’ she says, before correcting herself: ‘Except, lying on the beach is really the main part. Swimming, a little bit.’
Another dream: Collaborating on a line of tennis wear, like the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova have for Nike (Bouchard is also sponsored by the sportswear brand). But right now, her focus is all on her performance: ‘I think that would be really cool, but I feel like that’s definitely more in the future. Right now, I’m focused on tennis, and that’s my main goal. Maybe after my career is over, [I could] do a line. Right now I have so much on my plate, that’s not in the works.’
Seeking revenge at the Rogers Cup
Back on the topic of this week’s tournament, Bouchard agrees that she feels a home-court advantage thanks to her fans: ‘The fans are so great here. Whether I play in Montreal or Toronto, it’s nice to have so many people just feeling patriotic and really wanting me to do well. It’s motivating,’ she says.
She’ll need that motivation going into her first match on Tuesday night. Bouchard drew Swiss player Belinda Bencic as her first round opponent. The last time the pair met on the court back in June, Bouchard had just suffered her abdominal injury and had to forfeit from the pain. Now, Bouchard revels in having a second chance to beat her. ‘I unfortunately had to retire that match, although we did have a competitive first set,’ she says. ‘[Bencic’s] a great up-and-comer. I’m going to be ready for a really tough battle. She’s playing really well right now, and hopefully I can get some revenge this time.’
Looking to the future, Bouchard leaves no question that tennis is her everything. Her plans for the rest of the year once the tennis season is over? ‘Take a break, and then get right back to training’the usual,” she says.