Editor’s note: We first published this article in January 2014, when Canadian tennis star Eugenie Bouchard reached the semifinals of the Australian Open. To celebrate Bouchard’s achievement as the first Canadian woman ever to reach the finals at Wimbledon, we’re revisiting the piece.
Canadians are paying a lot more attention than usual to the Australian Open tennis tournament this week—and it’s not just because our deeply frozen nation is not so secretly yearning for the 42°C heat that players in Melbourne have had to contend with.
It’s because the breakout star of this year’s tournament, Eugenie (Genie) Bouchard, is one of our own. At the tender age of 19, the Montreal native has blasted her way to the semifinals of the tournament, the first Canadian to do so in 30-odd years. So far, she’s ousted a string of far more experienced players, including former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic.
Bouchard’s performance has been impressive enough to spawn an ad hoc fan club of Australians, dubbed Genie’s Army. Her reps are no doubt being inundated with requests for endorsement deals. Living legend Martina Navratilova—not exactly known for her excessive praise of others—is fully on board, tweeting “Eugenie Bouchard—a star is born” after the young upstart’s upset of Ivanovic in the quarter-finals.
To me, what’s so interesting about Bouchard’s rise over the past week or so is not her game—it’s impressive, yes, but no more so than a slew of other women on the pro tour—but, rather, her confidence.
Bouchard is very young. She is not (yet) ranked among the top players. She doesn’t have a lot of experience playing in the big leagues. Yet, she has entered each match firmly believing she’s going to be the victor. It’s this mental strength, this inability to be intimidated when the stakes are placed firmly against her, that has fuelled her success and wowed the global sports community.
For Bouchard—who, it must be noted, won the junior title at Wimbledon in 2012—victory is not a faint possibility. Rather, it’s a completely logical result to expect. “It’s something I’ve been doing since I was five years old, working my whole life for and sacrificing a lot of things for,” she said in an interview following her victory over Ivanovic. “So, it’s not exactly a surprise [to win]. I always expect myself to do well. I’m happy just to have gone through this step. I’m not done.”
I think Bouchard’s “of course I belong here” attitude is one that a lot of entrepreneurs—especially Canadian entrepreneurs—would do well to adopt. Far too often, we see leaders of compelling, dynamic, innovative companies default to stereotypical Canadian modesty, hoping their products or services will sell themselves on merit alone while these entrepreneurs defer to the “aw shucks, we’re just glad to be here” position. Our ridiculous national inferiority complex may solidify our collective “nice guy” image, but it’s not going to do much to put us ahead on the global stage.
What many of these entrepreneurs need is a bit of Genie’s swagger, a bit of self-assurance to convince customers, investors and potential employees that they’re a going concern. (Crucial: A good product/service offering. Bouchard can back up her confidence because she is good at what she does. Her comments would be a heck of a lot less palatable if she tanked match after match.)
Sports and business can be remarkably similar pursuits, and there are some good lessons in leadership, teambuilding and personal excellence to learn from today’s top athletes. (In tennis alone, you could do a lot worse than to emulate either the technical perfection of Roger Federer or the warrior spirit of Rafael Nadal.)
From the archives: Top of My Game: Leaders Share How to Achieve Peak Performance
In Bouchard, this young tennis phenom, we can add to the list a role model for those who struggle to toot their own horns. When what you do is great, why not boast with a little bravado? It’s worked for Bouchard so far, and I’m willing to bet it’d work for you, too.
Deborah Aarts is an award-winning senior editor at PROFIT Magazine. Her coverage of opportunities and challenges for Canada’s entrepreneurial innovators covers HR, leadership, sales and international trade, among other topics.
More columns by Deborah Aarts
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