LONDON - The rain started to sprinkle down onto the worn grass of Centre Court just as Eugenie Bouchard’s Wimbledon run came to an end.
It wouldn’t do to have the trophy presentations rained on, organizers decided: the roof needed to be closed.
That wouldn’t take too long. And so fans were urged to stay in their seats, but Bouchard — who had just been defeated 6-3, 6-0 in the final — and her opponent, Petra Kvitova, were led off court to escape for a few minutes of quiet.
The place chosen to wait out the brief delay? The room under the Royal Box, where the names of the winners are etched on the trophies. The engraver’s room.
“Yeah, it was a little odd,” Bouchard said after Saturday’s match. “I sat down. I put my jacket on — just reflected. I was in the engraver’s room, so I was watching them work, wishing one day, dreaming, that he’ll write my name.
“Maybe it’s a bit cruel,” she said, shrugging. “She just told me to go in there. I didn’t ask questions.”
How very Canadian.
Once the roof slid shut and the court was cozy and dry, Bouchard had to go back out and watch the Duke of Kent present the Rosewater Dish, given to the ladies’ singles champion, to Kvitova, who also won in 2011.
Bouchard was gracious, but she looked pretty miserable. The crowd, which had tried to cheer her through difficult moments in the match — and there were more than a few — gave her huge applause when she took the microphone to thank them: “I don’t know if I deserve all your love today, but I really appreciate it.”
Though her fortnight ended rather ignominiously — the 55-minute two-setter was the quickest women’s final in 31 years — Bouchard had been the darling of this tournament, playing tennis in front of packed stands and speaking to crammed press conferences.
After a summer of British sporting failures — a football World Cup disaster, Andy Murray being knocked from the men’s draw in the quarter-finals — British fans and reporters decided she was their girl.
On Thursday, there she was on the front page of the Daily Telegraph; Saturday, The Times featured Bouchard (and her One Hot Drop Shot tank top) on its cover.
The Daily Mail, one of the country’s best-selling newspapers, dubbed her the new Maria Sharapova and had her in for a glamorous photo shoot — and that was before play in SW19 even started.
Throughout the tournament, Bouchard fielded regular questions about the Royal Family — she and her siblings all bear regal monikers — and Justin Beiber, who she once named as her dream date.
Who would she like to see in the Royal Box? Bouchard’s answer: either Oprah — Bouchard thinks she’s an inspiration — or Princess Eugenie, younger daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.
And on Saturday, there she was. Alongside tennis royalty — Martina Navratilova, Virginia Wade, Martina Hingis — and Canadian representatives like WTA CEO Stacey Allaster and High Commissioner Gordon Campbell, sat Eugenie of York.
“I know, that was crazy,” Bouchard said. “I did see her in the box. I’m very happy that she came out. Disappointed I couldn’t put on a better show for her, but I’d love to meet her, of course.
“It’s the only person I’m named after. She’s the only one in the world.”
And to be fair, there were many tempting storylines, many of them actually relating to tennis. One: Bouchard was seeded 13th here — an unlucky number for so many, but Sharapova had the same ranking when she won her title here, in 2004. Could Bouchard repeat that feat?
And two, though this one with a slightly more local angle: Had Bouchard won, she would have been not only Canada’s first Wimbledon champion, but Canada’s first Grand Slam champion.
Don’t forget that despite Saturday’s loss, Bouchard made history here. She was the first Canadian quarter-finalist at the All England Club, then the first Canadian semi-finalist. (Scheduling always put Bouchard a step ahead of Milos Raonic, who also made the men’s semis, but fell to Roger Federer on Friday.)
The possibility of a Canadian Wimbledon champion focused the country’s attention on the 20-year-old Bouchard; she deflected any questions about what it might mean for the country, and her sport, and herself, were she to win.
It would be difficult to fault her for not being faultless.
Bouchard said after Saturday’s match she didn’t think nerves got the best of her. Once she and Kvitova started warming up, it was the game she’s been playing since she was five.
“I don’t think I felt overwhelmed,” Bouchard said. “As soon as we started hitting and the match started, you know, I felt a bit more in my element. You know, I felt, okay, it’s just a match. It’s starting.”
Kvitova, a powerful left-handed player who came in at the sixth seed, dominated from the beginning. Her shots were perfectly placed; her serves, faster than any she had delivered at any time during the tournament. Bouchard was, at times, left standing still.
“I definitely got outplayed, and I felt that way after the match,” Bouchard said. “But I’m still holding my head up. I feel like I’ve come a long way and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved not only this week but this year as well.
“So I think life is good, and I’m just going to keep working,” she said. “That’s what you have to do, just go back to work.”
Well, not right back. Bouchard first intends to first indulge in some comfort food — she’s been keeping away from desserts lately, so might treat herself to a brownie at dinner Saturday — and then she’s headed home to Montreal.
Once there, there’s some serious sofa time to be scheduled.
“I don’t know what it’s going to be like. I’m just excited to spend a little time off with my family back home,” Bouchard said.
“I’m going to spend a lot of time on my couch. That’s the first goal.”