Canadian tennis player Eugenie Bouchard says putting up with death threats, online criticism and loneliness is just something she has to deal with as she continues to make her way in the sport.
At just 22, Bouchard is one of the most popular and well-known players after a breakout 2014 season in which she climbed to fifth in the world.
However, she has not been able to repeat that form since, and hopes the wheel will turn at next week’s Australian Open after an impressive first-round win over Zhang Shuai at the Sydney International.
The world No.49 said that internet trolls were part of being a top tennis player but that she received lots of positive messages of support online as well.
“I’ve received death threats and things like that and have had some aggressive fans as well,” Bouchard told Fairfax Media.
“Unfortunately, that’s part of it. But most of them [fans] are really nice and support me no matter what,” she added. “Some cross the line a little bit, but I have people around me to look out for me.
“Unjustified hate and unintelligent hate, that disappoints me.”
For some time now, Bouchard has had to contend with critics who suggest she is not as committed to tennis as she should be.
They cite examples like Bouchard’s heavy use of social media, or the fact she adorns the front of many magazines to help their argument.
“It’s lonely to become a champion. It’s lonely to be successful,” she admits.
But the Canadian, who says she has no real friends on the tennis tour, insists that tennis is her “No.1 priority”.
“To get results and be known outside of the tennis world doing different shoots, be they in magazines, to me I’m taking advantage of all the opportunities I have because of all the hard work I put in,” she said.
“For sure, people are jealous, but you have to see that as a backhanded compliment. Having all the haters, it means you’ve actually achieved something in life.
“I’m not here [on the tour] to socialise [with players]. I’m friendly with my co-workers on tour, but I don’t really consider anyone a true real friend.
“I’d rather focus on my work when I’m on tour. It’s a tough sacrifice, but the benefits are so great as well.”
The Australian Open challenge
Despite being one of the biggest names on the circuit, Bouchard has won just one WTA Tour tournament, a 2014 success in Nurnberg.
Bouchard lost finals in Hobart and Kuala Lumpur last year.
Her 2017 did not start well, losing in the first round of the Brisbane International to American Shelby Rogers in three sets.
But Bouchard’s win over Zhang, who is ranked 23 places above her, came as a timely confidence boost with the first grand slam of the year on the horizon.
She will play world No.6 Dominika Cibulkova in Sydney on Tuesday.