‘Pickleball is crazy’: Genie Bouchard on her pro debut and differences with tennis

Montreal-born tennis star Eugenie Bouchard made her much-anticipated pro pickleball debut on Wednesday and in her words, “it was better than expected.”

“Look, pickleball is crazy,” said Bouchard, adding she’s happy with how it went despite losing.

Bouchard was competing in the singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles but was knocked out of the competition on Day 1 of the PPA Tour Hyundai Masters, taking place in Palm Springs.

Despite years of experience competing in tennis tournaments, reaching the Wimbledon finals and achieving a career-high ranking of No. 5 on the WTA Tour, Bouchard admitted to being a bit nervous before her pickleball matches.

“It’s wild for me to just play a completely different sport,” she said.

Pickleball is often described as a mix of tennis, badminton and ping pong, though for the casual onlooker it might look enough like tennis to assume a seamless transition.

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But it’s not necessarily that easy.

“I’ve played tennis for 25 years now, and so my brain is like wired for tennis,”  Bouchard said.

The biggest adjustment has been getting used to the difference in length of the tennis racket versus the pickleball paddle, the latter being shorter.


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“So I like either completely whiff the ball or I just hit the tip of the paddle and miss my shot,” she said.

Despite a “rocky start” in her first match, Bouchard said she felt like she improved a tiny bit with each successive game.

Bouchard said playing with the pros is a different ball game altogether, but a great way to learn, with other players sharing tips like where to stand or how to hit.

“That is just so helpful,” she said. “I just need more of that because I wasn’t getting that before I got here.”

Bouchard explained there aren’t really any pickleball coaches yet, owing to the newness of the sport.


Click to play video: 'Montreal pickleball players thrilled to have tennis star Eugenie Bouchard on board'


Montreal pickleball players thrilled to have tennis star Eugenie Bouchard on board


But Bouchard said she’s up for the challenge and excited to be part of something that is becoming wildly popular.

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It is the fastest growing sport in the U.S. and Bouchard said she’s seen evidence of that in Miami, where she’s based.

“Everyone I know plays, everyone I know is obsessed with it,” she said, adding that tennis courts everywhere in the city are being turned into pickleball courts.

That includes, tennis courts she used to train at, or others that were often empty or sparsely attended.

“I’m amazed at the growth and I’m happy to jump on this train of something that is taking over,” she said.

Tennis fans, however, shouldn’t be worried that Bouchard is switching courts completely.

“Tennis has been my first love ever since I’m five years old,” she said.

Bouchard is likely to have a very busy schedule this year, as she’s planning on pursuing both sports at a pro level.

“I’m very excited to just challenge myself with this new pickle chapter and then still remain in the tennis world that I love.”

 

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