MONTREAL – If 2013 was the year that put Eugenie Bouchard in the spotlight, 2014 was the one that showed the tennis star is no flash in the pan.
The Westmount, Que., native had a phenomenal year on the WTA tour, rising from 32nd in the rankings to No. 5 at one point before ending it at an impressive No. 7.
Along the way, she won her first career title, reached the Wimbledon final _ becoming the first Canadian to play in a Grand Slam final _ and made it to the semifinals of the Australian and French Opens.
Bouchard, 20, also helped Canada reach the World Group stage at the Fed Cup for the first time, won her first WTA title and in November was named the most improved player on the women’s tour.
Those exploits have earned Bouchard the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award for the second year in a row.
The honour is awarded to the Canadian Press female athlete of the year and is named after the Olympic champion and all-round sportswoman who was voted Canada’s top female athlete for the first half of the 20th century.
Bouchard won in a landslide.
She finished with 74 votes from sports editors and broadcasters across Canada, outstripping freestyle skier Justine Dufour-Lapointe, bobsledder Kaillie Humphries and Canadian hockey goaltender Shannon Szabados, who all received two votes.
Bouchard is the first woman to win the award in consecutive years since speedskater Cindy Klassen in 2005 and 2006.
“We are very, very proud of Genie,” Kelly Murumets, president and CEO of Tennis Canada, told The Canadian Press. “She is a fierce competitor and an amazing Canadian ambassador.
“How exciting. She’s still only 20 years old. I’m sure she feels incredibly honoured. Certainly, on behalf of her, we are very honoured that you have recognized her two years in a row. And the best is yet to come.
“She is on the trajectory to be a No. 1 competitor in the world.”
The year began with Bouchard reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open, where she fell to Li Na. She won the WTA event in Nuremberg in May and then made it to the last four at Roland-Garros where she was beaten by eventual winner Maria Sharapova.
The best was yet to come as she went on a thrilling run at Wimbledon before being taken apart 6-3, 6-0 in the final by Petra Kvitova.
She made the WTA finals in Singapore, where she was eliminated in the round-robin stage, and ended the year with US$3.22 million in prize money.
“Eugenie Bouchard became a world superstar in 2014 with her extraordinary performances in the Grand Slam tournaments,” said Jean-Pascal Beaupre, managing editor at Journal Metro.
“Few Canadian athletes can boast of achieving celebrity all over the world so quickly.”
Jean Dion of Montreal Le Devoir called Bouchard’s rise “breathtaking.”
“A three-time Grand Slam semifinalist is quite the achievement with all the competition out there in women’s tennis,” said Dion. “And to think she’s only 20 years old.”
Medicine Hat News sports editor Sean Rooney said voting for Bouchard was a no-brainer.
“No Canadian woman has ever had a year like Bouchard’s and the scary thing is she hasn’t even peaked yet,” he said. “She’s replaced Christine Sinclair as our country’s most looked-up to female athlete.”
Bouchard ended the year by signing with WME-IMG, saying the sports management powerhouse would help “maximize the value of my brand.”
Fellow tennis player Milos Raonic was voted The Canadian Press male athlete of the year on Friday for his second straight win. Canada’s team of the year will be revealed Monday.