Before there was Emma Raducanu there was Eugenie Bouchard, Grand Slam finalist and a social media phenomenon who transcended tennis.
The now 29-year-old Canadian is quick to acknowledge that she has plenty in common with the former US Open champion.
It goes well beyond the parallel that, at 2.4 million, she has nearly the same number of Instagram followers as the British No 1.
Bouchard, runner-up at Wimbledon 2014 and ex-world No 5, has had a surplus of injuries but is on her way back after a long hiatus with shoulder problems.
She has come through qualifying for the Madrid Open to make the second round proper, in which she was due to compete on Friday.
Eugenie Bouchard is a social media phenomenon who transcends the sport of tennis
The Canadian, ranked 285 in the world, is trying to rebuild her tennis career after injuries
Bouchard totally sympathises with British hope Emma Raducanu, who showed signs of strain as she stonewalled reporters in Madrid this week
From her currently obscure ranking of 285, has been fascinated by the career of Raducanu.
She has empathy with a player whose struggles have continued this week.
Standing on the same spot where Raducanu gave an awkwardly terse interview on Tuesday, Bouchard reflected on their shared references. These include the perceptions of them being excessively focused on commercial opportunities.
‘Oh, yeah, I see lots of similarities,’ said Bouchard, who urges Raducanu to look on the upside of life.
‘I feel for her in the sense there’s nothing to feel bad about with her. She has a great life and she’s set for life, and she’s had great achievements.
‘But I can understand a little bit of the pressure, the scrutiny. She posts not doing tennis one day and then people are like, “Why don’t you go practice?” and I’m like, “Oh, my God, I went through that six, eight years ago.”
‘It’s so funny, people will still be haters, you know what I mean? And I think she will do just fine. I think she may be just, kind of like me.
‘I did well, kind of right away and then I had to do the steps I missed and she probably just has to go through that a bit.
Emma Raducanu stonewalled reporters, uttering just 58 words in response to 16 questions
It is a far cry from her positive interactions with the media after her shock US Open win in 2021
‘I think she’ll be totally fine but it’s a tough world out there. So when you have success you just got to be ready for people to kind of claw you a little bit.’
Bouchard, a contemporary of Laura Robson, soared to fame at 19, reaching the SW19 final and the semis at the Australian and French Opens.
Injuries – including a concussion suffered when she slipped in a bath at the US Open – have taken away some of her best years. From March 2021 she did not play for 17 months after needing to undergo shoulder surgery.
She has had many of the same questions asked about her as Raducanu, with all the effects amplified in the social media age.
‘I’ve known all along who I am and what I do. I can work six hours a day and then go to the movies and post about the movies and people are like “Oh my god, she doesn’t practice”, and I’m like “You don’t know what I do day to day”.
Bouchard knows what Raducanu is going through when it comes to snipes on social media
She has 2.4million Instagram followers, the same number as Raducanu has accumulated
‘Social media is what people choose to show the world. You don’t know what goes on behind the scenes and I can’t reiterate that enough. It’s a highlight reel.
‘We all know this by now. Lots of tennis players are posting – people post more than me these days.
‘I’m so happy that nowadays it’s so much more normal. I feel like I was almost like a pioneer in this social media world because now everyone does it more than me and I’m like ‘see, it’s normal’. We’re allowed to pursue other projects.
‘Tennis is a great opening for people who have success, do other ventures and things like that. Why not? As long as you don’t get too distracted with it. Stay focused on the No 1 goal. Why not? Life is great. Don’t put us in a box.
‘As soon as someone has success, people can get jealous and people just want what you have. It’s a dog eat dog world out there. You just got to have tough skin and be ready for that.’
Experience has taught her that the best policy is to ride it out.
Bouchard has long since learned to just ‘ride it out’ when it comes to the haters online
‘I felt like I was getting a little bit of unjust hate so to speak, because you know, it’s still amazing to be 50 in the world. You can’t win all the time, unless you’re Novak or Rafa.
‘I’m just a bit older now, I think I see things from more of a life perspective as opposed to being like young and not knowing about life.’
Bouchard has earned enough money not to have any financial worries but she still has ambitions: ‘I could just chill, I guess, for the rest of my life, but that’s not who I am. Because that’s why I achieved the success I achieved – because I am a fighter and I love to work hard.
‘I could sit on my couch and watch Netflix. And that sounds appealing for sure. But after two days, I would like go crazy, I would need a project and something to do.’
That helped her deal with being sidelined for so long.
Bouchard this week won three straight matches for the first time in more than two years
Her fortunes are slowly turning around and she has won three straight matches this week, for the first time in more than two years: ‘It’s like playing for a team and being forced to sit on the bench. I’m not used to that.
‘Because in tennis you really dictate your own destiny, you get to you get to play when you want, and that’s what I love about not playing on a team sport.
‘But having an injury is kind of like a forced benching and it really requires a lot of patience, and I’m not very patient so I had to work on that. It took me a while to come back from the shoulder surgery.
‘But I knew I always wanted to come back, because I didn’t want to let an injury dictate my career.’