Genie Bouchard is ahead of schedule.
A year and a half ago she was playing in the Wimbledon juniors tournament (which she won).
At this time last year she was ranked 145th in the world, and failed to qualify for her first Australian Open main draw. As the year progressed she climbed rapidly in the rankings, from 92nd in April, to 59th in June, and finally 32nd at the end of 2013.
On Thursday she’ll play Li Na in the semifinals of the Australian Open — her first real chance for the mainstream breakthrough.
Bouchard is a 19-year-old from Montreal. She’s the fifth-youngest player in the top 100, and the world’s highest-ranked player under 20 years old.
If she continues on her current trajectory, she has the combination of poise, personality, looks, and skill to be a huge crossover star.
Five reasons why:
1. She can seriously play, and she doesn’t grunt!
Steve Tignor of Tennis magazine wrote a great description of what makes Bouchard so good after she beat Ana Ivanovic:
“She plays within herself. She doesn’t get too up or down. She doesn’t let her emotions get the best of her. She doesn’t look toward her players’ box much. She builds points rather than going for quick winners. She hits with compact, uncomplicated strokes and takes the ball early, at the top of the bounce. And — something that will make her popular with a lot of people — she doesn’t grunt. None of these eternal tennis virtues are ones you would expect to find in a 19-year-old; and all of them are difficult, if not impossible, to teach.”
2. She’s from a different generation than the current stars.
Bouchard represents a departure from Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, generationally speaking.
After beating Ivanovic, a giggling Bouchard said she wanted to date Justin Bieber.
Like an true teen, she takes selfies:
She also went to a Miley Cyrus concert this year:
3. She’s media savvy.
In limited opportunities, she had proven to be adapt at working the media. The Bieber interview was great. So also went on the local news in Canada and did the weather:
4. If she keeps winning, she’s going to be everywhere.
As we’ve seen with other good-looking women’s tennis players, the endorsement potential is enormous as long as you can back it up on the court.
Bouchard already has a sponsorship deal with Nike. Ana Ivanovic, who broke onto the scene at a similar age and in a similar way to Bouchard, was once touted as the “$100 million woman” by CNBC.
Bouchard is already doing fashion shoots:
Her digital Nike ad:
5. She already has her own fan group, Genie’s Army:
Only tennis diehards knew about her going into the Aussie Open, but she already developed a devoted following of college kids:
They throw her teddy bears:
She has a long way to go, but the potential is there.
The next Maria?
— Genie Bouchard (@geniebouchard) March 8, 2013