Burden. It is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “something oppressive or worrisome”. You may have a financial debt or some heavy guilt that is a burden to you. Or maybe, you are a professional athlete from the country of Canada.
Everyone who followed Bouchard knows the trials this young woman has gone through in her career. After a stunning breakthrough and Grand Slam finals appearance in 2014, Bouchard began to rapidly fall off the map. She suffered injuries and setbacks and just has not been able to regain the form she had three years ago. However, as Canadian sports fans are likely to do, once you capture our interest, it’s very difficult to at least not have the vast majority of sports fans and media outlets, if not watching and covering you as a top story, at least keeping you in mind and supporting you. However, Genie may have just found a way to lose that support.
On August 8, Genie sat in front of the assembled media with cameras in the room, the most prominent sports networks present (Sportsnet, TSN) after a frankly humiliating and demoralizing loss in straight sets to Donna Vekic, a 21-year old from Croatia, at the Rogers Cup in Toronto and she had a very interesting quote for the reporters.
She was asked about 17-year old rising Canadian star, Bianca Andreescu, and after talking about practicing with her and complimenting her success as of late, she said “someone else can carry the burden of Canada.” She then piled on later in the press conference by saying it “would be nice” if the media didn’t put so much pressure on her. These comments really disappointed me, and honestly, has caused me to lose support for Bouchard.
I was one of the many who began paying serious attention to tennis in general back in 2014 when Bouchard kicked down the door like a bat out of hell. Her run was amazing, the only thing keeping it from being a perfect story was her defeat in the Grand Slam finals. However, it permanently endeared her to me, and the rest of Canada. Or so I thought. As her magic began to run out and fans began to expect that type of performance from her and began expecting great performances from her, she began her fall from grace. Despite this, no matter how frustrating it is to watch, and how frustrating it must be to live it as Bouchard, most Canadian fans never stopped supporting Bouchard, and never stopped rooting for her. The attention and positive outlook may have dimmed, but no one stopped wanting her to win. This is the norm when you are a struggling athlete in Canada.
However, now I sit here, feeling as though Bouchard, who failed to get past the first round against a player barely anyone really knows about and has yet to show any inclination that she is even close to getting back on track, and now, suddenly it is Canada’s fault? It is the media’s fault who helped propel you to superstardom?
Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of occasions where I felt the media and fans were being far too tough on a team or athlete. However, in Bouchard’s case, the vast majority of tennis pundits in this country, names like Sportsnet’s Arash Madani come to mind, always advocated for Bouchard’s ability, and would always drive the point home that it was only a matter of time before she hit her stride again. Additionally, the hardcore tennis fans acknowledged the slump she was in but also stuck by her, and the bandwagon fans didn’t get angry as much as they stopped watching while waiting for Genie to get back to form.
It was such a strange thing to hear from an athlete who, by all accounts, is one of the biggest competitors out there. Whether she is doing well or not, when she steps on the court, every little thing she does is being played back in her own head and scrutinized. Everyone is on Bouchard’s side and wants to see her return to her high level of success, but it almost seems like now, she has given up, and is trying to find any excuse as to why she has fallen so far, without admitting she either isn’t playing to her abilities, or that she never had the talent everyone thought to begin with. Whichever theory you believe, she needs to realize that right now, both are right, and she is the only one who can change it by figuring out what the issue is, and how to fix it.
It does pain me to write a piece based so much on slamming such a young, promising Canadian athlete, especially who one who has shown once before that she has the makings of a superstar. However, one thing you cannot do as a Canadian athlete is insult this country’s athletic pride, and that is exactly what you do when you blame Canada for your shortcomings by saying that Canada, your home country fans, and the media are a burden.