In case there was any doubt, Genie Bouchard’s five-year hiatus hasn’t dimmed any of her star power. And the proof was in the pudding on the first day of the qualifying event of the National Bank Open women’s championships.

The last time she competed at the NBO in her hometown was on August 7, 2018: a 6-2, 6-4 loss to Elise Mertens of Belgium. Since then, Eugenie’s career has been slowed by a persistent shoulder injury and frequent attempts at a comeback.

Now, 5 years and 112 matches later, she’s found her way back again and brought all her fans—who didn’t want to miss a minute of her match—with her. The Genie brand is still very much alive as nearly 6,000 ticket holders packed Centre Court to watch her take on 2022 AO finalist and No.49 Danielle Collins of the US.

Photo: Pascal Ratthé

“We just love her. She did well these past few years, and we’re happy to be here for her comeback. Eugenie is a Canadian talent, and we’re here to support her,” said Marie-Ève Garant of Québec. Nathalie Alain of Mirabel agreed. “I’m a fan of hers. She’s a source of pride for us Quebecers. She connects with us, and that’s what makes her so popular.”

Martin Savard of Laval hollered his support as soon as the Canadian stepped onto the court. “I’m a Genie fan! I’ve been following her since the start of her career. I have enormous respect for her. The buzz she creates is incredible. We haven’t seen her in five years, and I bought two tickets just for her, today and tomorrow, in the hopes she’ll win her first match,” he said.

Why so much love for a player who’s only competed sporadically these past few years and slipped in the rankings? “She’s endearing. To me, Genie has always been a top athlete. And I admire her a lot for showing up at the qualifiers, and I think she wants to defend her reputation,” he added.

It was a rude awakening for them and everyone when the American took the first set 6-1, but when Eugenie offered a glimmer of hope by giving her opponent a taste of her own medicine, IGA Stadium came alive. Unfortunately, reality caught up with the crowd favourite, and the 2014 Wimbledon champion fell 6-1 in the third after 84 minutes of play (6-1, 1-6, 6-1).

Photo: Pascal Ratthé

“Typical WTA score line!” she said afterwards. “Danielle is a great player, obviously. At the beginning, I wasn’t ready for her pace and depth. Then, I could turn things around and I was really happy that I could get into the match after such a bad first set. And in the third set, she simply raised her level. She’s 50 in the world and a tough opponent.”

Photo: Paul Rivard

The Canadian said she was satisfied with her performance given how little she’s played in recent months, mainly due to a slight knee injury. When asked about all the fans in the stands and the warm welcome they had in store for her, she said she was delighted.

“Oh, yes! It’s been a long time since I played here, so I’d almost forgotten what it’s like to play in front of the crowd in Montréal. It’s very special. It’s something I don’t feel anywhere else in the world, except maybe in Toronto, of course. There was a moment in the second set when we played a few good points in a row and there was so much noise. It was crazy! I couldn’t hear myself think.”

She walked off the court to huge applause.

At 29 years old and currently ranked No.223, Eugenie Bouchard probably won’t find her way back to her former level. Her real achievement will have been to remain so popular, year after year with a crowd she completely won over in 2013 and 2014.

Remember this name: Marina     

Photo: Sarah-Jade Champagne

Had it not been for Genie, the day’s top story would’ve been the Ontario teen who may very well cause just as much fan frenzy as the 2014 Wimbledon finalist in the very near future.

Marina Stakusicmore than impressed against No.48 Alycia Parks (2) of the US in their opening match. On paper, the clash between the American and the 18-year-old Mississauga native, who’s ranked No.414, seemed a little lopsided, but that turned out not to be the case at all.

Stakusic went all in and relied on her fantastic defensive abilities to stay in the tough rallies as her rival grew increasingly irritated with her opponent and herself as the match went on.

Photo: Paul Rivard

Marina won the first set 6-4 but dropped the second by the same score. The third set was a battle royale with Stakusic and Parks each giving up a break. At 4-5, the young Canadian seemed to be channelling the crowd’s energy when she saved two match points.

At the outcome of nearly three hours (2:45) of competition, Alycia Parks wrapped up the tense third set 7-5, racking up 9 aces and 17 double faults and dominating the service breaks 6-5.

Marina Stakusic left the court to the sound of a long round of applause.

Photo: Paul Rivard

Afterwards, so many reporters wanted to talk to her that she was assigned her own press room—a sure sign that she’d made her mark.

Obviously disappointed with the result, Marina admitted that she loved the experience. “I was very excited to play here because I train here. I was very proud to play in front of a crowd like this.”

Several thousand people had packed Centre Court on opening day—an unusual setting for an up-and-comer like Marina, especially considering how she just recently came back to tennis after six months away due to a knee injury. At the Granby National Bank Championships where she returned to the game, she played her way into the quarters where she was overpowered by Rebecca Marino (6-2, 6-4). 

Photo: Paul Rivard

Was she surprised to give such a high caliber player a run for her money?

“I can take them on, for sure. But this is only my second tournament since January, so, yes, I’m a little surprised, and I was happy to have fought like that against a Top 50 player. It gives me confidence.”

In addition to the media and spectators, Sylvain Bruneau, who leads Tennis Canada’s elite women’s program, was also thrilled. “Her game is very complete, offensively and defensively. And it’s important to remember this was only her second tournament since January. It was an excellent performance to put pressure a Top 50 player like that—a very positive match!” he said with a smile.

Marina’s next stop is Spain for a series of W25 tournaments over the next three weeks.


There were four other Canadians in action on day one.

Photo: Pascal Ratthé

No.624 Bianca Fernandez, Leylah’s 19-year-old sister, was swiftly toppled 6-1, 6-3 by No.46 Lesia Tsurenko (1) of Ukraine.

Photo: Patrice Lemieux

No.144 Katherine Sebov, who played the last match of the day on Centre Court after Eugenie Bouchard, went head-to-head against No.59 Peyton Stearns. The Torontonian clinched the first set but couldn’t keep the momentum going and lost 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.   

Photo: Tennis Canada

As for No.245 Carol Zhao, she was defeated by No.84 Cristina Bucsa of Spain 6-3, 6-3.

Photo: Patrice Lapointe

Finally, No.860 Mia Kupres of Alberta got off to a strong start but ultimately couldn’t stand up to No.60 Yulia Putintseva of Ukraine (2-6, 6-2, 6-0).