By Laura Amato
Genie Bouchard just wanted to have some fun.
The tennis star, ranked No. 69 in the world, competed on the World Team Tennis circuit twice, but she hadn’t been able to work the summer matches into her schedule in several years. That changed July 27 when Bouchard made her New York Empire debut, playing two nights with the squad on Court 17 at the National Tennis Center and, most important, having a pretty good time.
“I was talking to my agent about the opportunity earlier in the year and talking about going into the draft and I was just like, ‘you know what, I miss playing it,’ ” Bouchard said. “So I realized this could happen and I was all for it. I think it’s a way to get practice matches and I remembered how fun it was. I truly just wanted to enjoy a couple of nights of playing tennis with a team and having fun.”
Bouchard, who competed for Texas in 2013 and Kansas City in 2009, only played two nights with the Empire, but she relished the opportunity to fine-tune her game. After all, it’s not every match she has a coach on the court or a team behind her, supporting every swing of her racket.
The chance to work so closely with some of her fellow stars was a big part of the WTT appeal for Bouchard.
Tennis is one of those sports where you don’t have coaching while you play. So the few occasions you do have it, obviously make it more important,” Bouchard said. “To have someone there every single change over is, obviously, different and that’s one of the great things about World Team Tennis, that team atmosphere.”
“Tennis is very individual, so to not only have the coach right next to me, but the whole team encouraging me, those are some of my favorite memories of WTT,” she added.
Bouchard broke onto the international scene in 2014 when she became the first Canadian-born player to reach the finals of a Grand Slam in singles, falling to Petra Kvitová at Wimbledon. Since then, however, the 23-year-old has battled through up-and-down performances and an injury-prone 2017. She’s hoping that her two nights with the Empire will help get her back on track before she turns her attention to the US Open later this month.
“I think it’s great that it’s actually on the site where the Open is,” Bouchard said. “I love the city, it’s my favorite city in the world. So to be able to play some fun tennis, bond with the team and spend a couple of days in this amazing city, I was so happy with this opportunity.”
Of course, Bouchard was also happy to make her WTT return in New York, particularly when she’s already got her sights set on a deep run at the US Open. As far as Bouchard is concerned, these two nights with the Empire are the start of something bigger.
“I really want to kind of focus and get [ready] for the last remainder of the season,” Bouchard said. “I’m going to start that off with a couple of exhibition matches and then play a really full hardcore season up to the US Open and then in Asia afterwards. I really just want to make the most of it. The goal is to get my ranking up by the end of the year.”