Genie Army grabs spotlight at Montreal's Rogers Cup
Diehard fans of Eugenie Bouchard travelled from home in Australia to cheer on Quebec tennis star
A group of Australian supporters of rising tennis star Eugenie Bouchard are enjoying a moment in the spotlight themselves.
Ryan Gibb, part of the fan club known as the Genie Army in Montreal for the Rogers Cup, said Saturday he's been greeted warmly by fellow tennis fans and sometimes even asked to pose for photos.
The Genie Army has become a minor phenomenon since it began at the Australian Open in January, when Bouchard made a run all the way to the semifinals.
"We were just going the Australian Open to have a bit of fun at the tennis, and to support a player we like and admire in the way she plays," Gibb recalled.
"But to be here is just out of this world and surreal."
Dressed in their red and white "Genie Army" T-shirts, the six Australians who made the trip met with youngsters Saturday at the tournament site.
The Genie Army was invited to Montreal by Tennis Canada after the group gained attention during the Australian Open for their catchy chants and T-shirts that collectively spelled out "G-E-N-I-E."
They were offered a free pass to the Aug. 2-10 tournament, as well as a place to stay near the stadium.
But the Australians, many of whom are university students, had to pay for their own flights.
"It's a first time for all of us in Canada," said Sarah Biviano, another Bouchard devotee.
"And I think for some of us, it's the first time overseas. So it's an exciting time."
Gibb, who studies sports marketing, said he now sees potential to turn the cheering squad into a business opportunity.
They are trying to start a website where they will sell Genie Army T-shirts. They have already trademarked the name, Gibb said.
"Hopefully in the near future we'll have merchandise available for purchase," he said.
"We want to make sure we do it all properly and by the books."
Bouchard, a native of Montreal suburb Westmount, attracted a large crowd to her practice session on Saturday, including a large contingent of young tennis players excited to get a glimpse of their idol.
After a breakout year, including strong showings at the French Open and Wimbledon, Bouchard is ranked No. 7 in the world heading into the tournament.
"She is an amazing tennis player," said Adriana Tsoukalas, age nine.
"When I'm 20 years old, like her, I want to be like Genie Bouchard."