Walking out of the media center at the Texas Tennis Open last September, I noticed a young girl coming out of the players’ area ahead of me, heading toward the hotel lobby.
She strolled casually down the hallway, her head down, looking at her phone, deftly texting as she walked. She reminded me of my 18-year-old son, whom I had just dropped off in Austin to begin his freshman year of college.
The next day as I walked between courts, I saw that same young girl, but this time the cellphone had been replaced by a tennis racket. I stopped and watched her play. The kid from the night before had transformed into a professional athlete and a talented one at that. It didn’t take long to be impressed.
That young girl turned out to be 18-year-old Eugenie Bouchard of Canada. On Wednesday, Bouchard, now 19, defeated former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic to reach the third round at Wimbledon before falling to Carla Suarez Navarro 7-5, 6-2 on Friday.
Unfortunately for Metroplex tennis fans, the Texas Tennis Open won’t be returning to North Texas this summer, but Bouchard will. She’ll be playing for the Texas Wild, which makes its World TeamTennis home debut on July 10 in Irving.
Bouchard is ranked No. 66 and climbing fast. She’ll be worth watching in Irving, but don’t just take my word for it.
Martina Navratilova described Bouchard on the official Wimbledon website as a potential Grand Slam champion.
“That was very impressive,” Navratilova, a nine-time Wimbledon champion, said after watching Bouchard defeat Ivanovic. “She showed very great composure mentally, rising to the occasion. I like everything — she showed great shot selection and held up well under pressure; she has a technically sound game and she constructs points well. If she continues like this, she will be top 20 at least by the end of the year. I don’t want to say a star is born, but we have seen a potential Grand Slam champion here.”
And Bouchard isn’t the only rising star that local tennis fans might have bumped into recently.
A tall, athletic-looking guy stood next to me as I watched a match at the Dallas Tennis Classic last spring. I later discovered that he was Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine, who defeated Roger Federer on Wednesday at Wimbledon.
The next day in Irving, I watched Stakhovsky play on a back court. He defeated a pesky young Belgian named Steve Darcis. If that name sounds familiar, it’s probably because it was Darcis who upset French Open champion Rafael Nadal in the first round at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
The list of rising stars who have made their way through North Texas in the past two years is long and impressive, if not well known. Who knew much about Sabine Lisicki, Angelique Kerber or Roberta Vinci before they played in Grapevine?
And in addition to Stakhovsky and Darcis, players making noise recently after playing in North Texas include Denis Kudla, Bobby Reynolds and Dustin Brown, who upset Lleyton Hewitt on Wednesday — and that’s just to name a few.
On the right track
Another rising star had a nice week in Europe, just not at Wimbledon.
Aledo’s Mitchell Krueger won his first professional tournament Sunday at the Het Nieuwe Oranjehof Futures in Alkmaar, Netherlands. Krueger then reached the quarterfinals of the Breda Futures Tournament on Friday in the Netherlands, before losing. However, he and partner Bjorn Fratangelo advanced to the doubles final Saturday.
Krueger’s ranking, while still modest, has climbed more than 120 points since the first of the year. He is at No. 666 and steadily climbing as he begins his second year as a full-time pro.
U.S. Open playoffs
Mitchell Krueger’s girlfriend, Peggy Porter of Dallas, is also having some success. She defeated Rhiann Newborn of Houston 6-1, 6-0 to win the Texas U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament in Arlington for the second year in a row Friday.
Charles Boyce of Cedar Hill defeated Hawaii-Hilo head tennis coach Karl Sloss 6-2, 6-1 to win the men’s title, and Karina Traxler, a 15-year-old from Rockwall, partnered with John Mee of Dallas to beat Nicholas Naumann and Heather Steinbauer, both from The Woodlands, to win the mixed doubles title 7-6 (2), 6-4.
The Texas section winner advances to the U.S. Open National Playoffs on Aug. 16-19 in New Haven, Conn. The winner of the national playoffs advances to the U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament with a chance to earn a spot in this year’s U.S. Open, beginning Aug. 26 in New York.
Briefly• ESPN Films and espnW will premiere (webcast) the documentary Venus Vs. as the first film in the upcoming Nine for IX series of nine documentary films about women in sports, directed by outstanding female filmmakers. Venus Vs. is directed by Ava DuVernay and highlights Venus Williams’ work that changed the course of women’s tennis. Williams challenged the long-held practice of paying women tennis players less money than their male counterparts at Wimbledon. Go to espnW.com.
• The USTA’s Fort Worth COMBO Team Doubles Tournament is scheduled Aug. 23-25 at the Arlington Tennis Center. Men’s and women’s divisions will be offered at the combined NTRP levels of 5.5, 6.5, 7.5, 8.5 and 9.5. Team ID deadline is Aug. 5. Registration deadline is Aug. 12. Entry fee is $26 per player plus a $3 fee on the USTA TennisLink page. For more information, call 817-797-3601 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.