Eugenie Bouchard would have chosen a different career path if she wasn’t comfortable with the spotlight.
The 20-year-old Canadian tennis star surged from relative anonymity to household name in 2014, reaching two Grand Slam semis before making an appearance in July’s Wimbledon final.
That success on the court led to increased fame off it, but Bouchard says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I knew what I was signing up for,” Bouchard said on a conference call Wednesday. “If didn’t want attention I would have been a librarian, so I think it’s all good.
“I just need to make sure I know the priority is tennis.”
The Westmount, Que., native—who was named the WTA’s most improved player this week—said it didn’t take long for her to realize life would be drastically different as she shot up the rankings, especially after Wimbledon.
“It took me a couple days to get over it and get used to the whole situation,” said Bouchard, the first Canadian singles player to make a Grand Slam final in the modern era. “I don’t know if it’s something you do get used to … everyone, especially in Montreal, just coming up to you and talking to you and asking for pictures and trying to take your picture.
“That’s just one side of it. Of course there’s a lot of off-court requests and things like that. I really just need to manage my time better. I feel like I’ve done a good job, but that’s definitely what I need to do.”
Bouchard, who rose as high as No. 5 in the world and also qualified for the season-ending WTA finals, said making her first Grand Slam semi at the Australian Open in January was a watershed moment.
“I kind of just proved to myself I could play on a big stage,” she said. “I played on centre court in the quarters and was able to win a tough match and play with all the attention and everything surrounding that tournament.
“I proved to myself I could handle those situations and I could play with the top players in the later stages of Grand Slams, which is so crucial.”
The current world No. 7, Bouchard said she tries to look ahead, but added that her loss at Wimbledon to Petra Kvitova is one she would like to have back.
“Just to be able to play it (again), whether I were to win or lose … just to experience that moment again,” she said. “Besides that I’m not going to dwell on the past. I think it’s important to just learn from it, but keep moving forward.”
Bouchard said her approach and confidence on the court is one of the biggest changes she’s undergone in the last 12 months.
“I have so much more experience now than November 2013,” she said. “I’ve really gone through a lot. I feel like nerves going on a big stage have improved, staying mentally tough in matches. When I’m playing a good opponent—top-10, top-5—I believe in myself more now than I did.”
Bouchard said she wants to cut down on the number of tournaments she plays in 2015 to reduce wear and tear after she suffered some injuries as the season wore on. She has also yet to decide if she will play in Canada’s World Group I Fed Cup tie against the Czech Republic in February.
“When you go deeper into the draws, especially at bigger tournaments, it’s just so much more stressful on the body and the mind,” said Bouchard. “It’s important to have those rest periods.
“(But) it’s hard for me to scale down tournaments because I love playing and I’m so competitive.”
Bouchard, who earned US$3.22 million in prize money in 2014, pointed to that competitive spirit as one of her key attributes.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself because I have high expectations,” said Bouchard. “I just always want to try and be the best I can be at everything I do, whether it’s tennis or a board game with my family.”
Bouchard defeated Karolina Pliskova in Nurnberg, Germany, in May for her first career WTA title, but she stumbled a bit after Wimbledon, including a loss in her opening match of the Rogers Cup in Montreal.
“It just showed me how much I can still improve,” Bouchard said of the second half of her season. “I feel like I’ve raised my level so much this year, but I feel like I can still do so much better.”
Bouchard just got back training a few days ago and will play one tournament in the new year before the Australian Open in January.
While many people were caught off guard by her success, Bouchard said she expected nothing less.
“Tennis is something I’ve been doing since I was five years old and I’ve had dreams of winning Grand Slams since I was very young,” she said. “I’ve put in 15 years of hard work (and) I’ve always believed in myself. Great results are great, but to me they’re no surprise.
“This year has definitely been a good step forward for me in my journey.”