Eugenie Bouchard learned early on that New York-area tennis fans are not bashful, whether cheering, booing or offering unsolicited advice.
She recalled a U.S. Open match at Louis Armstrong Stadium during which she went behind the baseline to get a new ball and heard someone in the crowd yell, “Hit more to her backhand!”
“I remember thinking: ‘Why don’t you come down here and try to do it? It’s a little bit easier watching from the stands,’” she said, laughing, during a conference call on Tuesday to promote her appearances Thursday and Friday for the New York Empire of World TeamTennis.
“But I thought it was so funny. I’ve had numerous coaching attempts from the crowd in New York, and if what they said made sense, I would actually try it.”
Bouchard might get to test that notion on Court 17 of Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the Empire and one of the more raucous settings during the Open itself later this summer.
“Even if they were all against me I would love it, because I love the atmosphere,” she said. “When fans are involved in the match it makes it fun to play, no matter who they’re for or against.”
The two matches this week are the only two of the season for Bouchard, who twice before has been part of WTT — in 2009, when she was 15, and in 2013 — and found she enjoyed its quirky rules and camaraderie.
“What I love is that team atmosphere, because tennis is very individual,” she said. “So to have not only the coach [Gigi Fernandez] right next to me, but to have the whole team encouraging me, those are some of my favorite memories from World TeamTennis.”
So Bouchard, a Canadian, is looking at the matches as good practice as well as “a bit of fun, because that’s why we play this game, right?” she said. “I think the concept of trying to make tennis more fun, getting fans involved, little things like music between points, really make it a fun experience. I think it’s great for fans to kind of see a different side of players.”
Bouchard has not had much fun on the court this season, watching her world ranking sink to No. 69 after she peaked at No. 5 in 2014, when she reached the final at Wimbledon and the semis at the French and Australian Opens.
“I would describe my season as definitely up and down,” she said. “I’ve had some good wins, but I’ve had some bad losses and I’ve had some unfortunate struggles with injuries.
“So I really kind of want to focus and give everything for this last remainder of the season . . . I want to try to play a lot of tournaments and get a lot of matches and really, the goal is to get my ranking up by the end of the year.”
Win or lose this week, she plans to take advantage of being assigned to New York, calling it “my favorite city in the world, really. It’s amazing.”
Last week she joined fellow Nike endorser and golfer Michelle Wie in Manhattan to shoot a promotional video of them giving one another pointers in their respective sports.
“I had a lot more fun than I expected,” Bouchard said. “I think she gave me some good enough tips to actually have a decent swing, and it was literally the first time I ever swung a golf club. But she gave me very technical pointers. When I focused on that it actually helped so much.
“I was quite proud of myself to see the athletic-ness that I have on the court was able to be transitioned a little bit onto the golf course. I had an amazing day and now I am a true fan of golf. I was getting into golf before this day, slowly, as I was getting older, but now I’m obsessed.”
Bouchard is 23.