After a much-improved 2013 saw Eugenie Bouchard emerge as one of the rising stars in tennis, an unforeseen question from the media has made her a viral sensation in January 2014. After becoming the first Canadian tennis player in 30 years to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam event (the last was Carling Bassett), her post-game jubilation featured an on-court interview.
In what promises to be one of the most entertaining (and embarrassing) sporting moments of 2014, Bouchard was asked by Samantha Smith of Australia’s Channel 7 which celebrity she would like to go on a date with. The body language clearly indicates that Bouchard was not expecting such a question.
Followed by an awkward pause, Bouchard mentions to the fans in attendance at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena that her choice would be pop-star (and fellow Canadian) Justin Bieber, followed by a nervous giggle. Not helping her own cause, she then looked into the camera and waved, “Justin, if you are watching…heyyyy.”
With a crowd of enthusiastic fans calling themselves The Genie Army, the question may have been prompted by Smith after telling Boucahrd that a lot of the new fans she is gaining are male. With accusations from others in the media of sexism (due to the dating question)
Within a few hours, the interview went viral online, while social media has also engaged in the hysteria. Of note, TMZ Sports has already covered the story, showing its impact in popular culture. Although Bieber has not replied on social media, he did get the opportunity to meet with members of the Canadian national women’s hockey team on a recent trip to Toronto.
From the outset, such a question should never have been asked after a game situation. It certainly would never have been asked to an established star such as Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova. Not only would it have been considered inappropriate, but there would have been calls for the interviewer’s dismissal. Had Bouchard been interviewed on MTV in a non-game situation, that question would certainly have not elicited such a reaction.
Considering that she is only 19 years old, the transition to tennis star is still very new to her. Having now become a global celebrity, this is compounded by the fact that she was booed by several fans in attendance after her choice of Bieber. Such a controversial interview could have an effect on how she handles interviews in the future. To be fair, those boos were attributed to a spray-painting incident at a Gold Coast hotel by the pop star.
While her sparkling play at the Australian Open has certainly earned new fans (Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki has raved about her on Twitter), the dramatic rise in media attention shall prove to be a test of her mental toughness heading into the semifinals.
Her defeat of Serbian tennis star and former Number 1 ranked player Ana Ivanovic in the quarters was a huge step forward in her budding career. Her three-set win by scores of 5-7, 7-5 and 6-2 took two hours and 22 minutes. Ironically, she did not appear nervous once during the victory, compared to her appearance in the post-game interview.
In learning to deal with becoming a star athlete, Bouchard must also learn how to deal with media. This was certainly a baptism of fire for the teenaged competitor from Westmount, Quebec. Fans can only hope that unlike Bieber’s career at the moment, it is not going to descend into a downward spiral. While she faces Li Na in the semi-finals, a victory over her would only add to her historic run. No Canadian tennis player, male or female, has ever reached the finals of the Australian Open.