Former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard announced today that she will be joining the professional pickleball circuit in 2024. The Canadian tennis star revealed her plans on social media, stating she is “excited to start this new chapter in my career.”
Bouchard, a former world number 5 in tennis, has struggled to regain her top form in recent years after a promising start to her career. Now 29 years old, she has slumped to 488th in the world rankings. However, the former Wimbledon and Australian Open semifinalist hopes to reinvigorate her racket sport career by taking up the rapidly growing game of pickleball.
Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. Played on a badminton-sized court with a modified tennis net, players use solid paddles to hit a perforated polymer ball over the net and score points against their opponent. While Pickleball has similarities to tennis, the smaller court size, different equipment and unique rules make for a very distinct game.
The sport has exploded in popularity in North America in recent years, with an estimated 4.8 million players in 2021. Many tennis converts have joined the pickleball movement, including other former professionals like Andy Roddick, James Blake and Mardy Fish. The Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) now oversees an increasingly competitive tour for the world’s top players.
Bouchard brings star power and name recognition to pickleball as she attempts this sporting changeover. Now nearing the tail end of her tennis career, she will try to transfer her athleticism, reflexes and racket skills over to paddles and pickleballs. However, she faces a steep learning curve ahead.
As an avid pickleball player myself, I understand the challenges Bouchard will face. The game may look similar to an outsider, but subtle differences in strategies, footwork, shot selection and other technical elements will require major adjustments on her part. The court geometry, ball bounce and paddle feel create a whole new dynamic she will need time to adapt to.
Still, Bouchard’s competitive desire and willingness to embrace new challenges make me optimistic about her pickleball future. Her fitness, mental toughness and athletic IQ developed over a decade on the WTA tour will aid her transition. She is also humble enough to learn from the experienced pickleball players she will train with. I expect a focused commitment to developing the specific pickleball weapons and tactics needed at the pro level.
The professional pickleball world will certainly welcome Bouchard’s high-profile entry to the sport in 2024. If she can make a successful conversion to paddles, it will bring greater visibility and legitimacy to the rapidly developing pro pickleball scene. As a lifelong tennis and pickleball enthusiast, I am excited to see this talented athlete take on a new racket sport adventure. She may inspire other tennis converts looking to extend their competitive playing days. Regardless of results, Bouchard’s pickleball voyage will be an intriguing story to follow.