A large banner featuring Serena Williams hangs prominently on the side of the Rexall Centre stadium for this week's Rogers Cup in Toronto.
The north side of the stadium may belong to the top-seeded American, but the east side is reserved for one of the rising stars of the women's tour. Eugenie Bouchard cuts a steely pose on her banner, with fist clenched and a look of intensity that appears to go against the grain of the soft-spoken Canadian.
Bouchard is being given her share of the spotlight at this $2.369-million US tournament. On Tuesday night, she showed that she's ready.
The 19-year-old from Montreal was in fine form for her first-round singles match, posting a tidy 6-3, 6-1 over Alisa Kleybanova. Bouchard mixed up her effective ground strokes with some slick cut shots that left her Russian opponent stymied.
There were more service breaks than holds early in the 79-minute match, which forced the Canadian to adjust her style.
"I just decided to go for it and started to play aggressive," Bouchard said. "That definitely helped me."
It has been a busy week for the 2012 Wimbledon junior champion. Bouchard teamed with Monica Seles for an exhibition against the Williams sisters and dropped her first-round doubles match with partner Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium.
Bouchard battled some early nerves when she appeared on centre court for her opening singles match Tuesday but quickly settled in. The 62nd-ranked wild-card entry looked smooth and quite comfortable for someone in her first full season on the pro circuit.
"Yeah, I am relaxed," she said. "It's fun. It's just fun being home where people know you a bit more. But besides that I know I need to stay focused on what I need to do or else I will lose my concentration.
'Yeah, I am relaxed. It's fun. It's just fun being home where people know you a bit more. But besides that I know I need to stay focused on what I need to do or else I will lose my concentration.'—Canada's Eugenie Bouchard
"So I put pressure on myself and that's really all I think about — my own expectations."
Bouchard has had some big moments this year. She posted a third-round victory over U.S. Open winner Samantha Stosur last April at the Family Circle Cup and upset Ana Ivanovic to reach the third round at Wimbledon.
She'll have her work cut out for her in the second round on Wednesday. Bouchard is scheduled to meet defending champion and No. 6 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.
"Yeah, time to take the defending champ down," she said with a smile. "Obviously she's a great player. She's won a [grand slam tournament]. But you know, I'm just really excited I will play at home on centre court in front of the crowd. It's always so fun for me.
"I'm going to try my best and we'll see what happens."
Kleybanova currently holds the No. 599 position in the world rankings. The former top-20 player is a cancer survivor who was playing her first WTA Tour match in over a year.
"I was pretty excited to go out there," she said. "I love playing on stadium court and being in front of the crowd. It's a great experience for me every time I go on the court. You know today I went out, tried to do my best and obviously did, you know. But she played really well."
Toronto's Sharon Fichman advanced with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win over Stephanie Dubois of Laval, Que. The Canadians are friends and have played doubles together in Fed Cup competition in the past.
"It really is a shame that we had this draw and obviously it was a really tough match because we know each other's game so well," she said. "It was three sets and it was definitely a tough one, but I'm happy to get through it."
There was only one mild upset on the day as Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia eliminated eighth-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany in second-round play. The unseeded Cibulkova, ranked No. 20 in the world, needed almost three hours to complete the 6-7 (0), 6-2, 7-5 victory.
"It was a really tough match," Cibulkova said. "Angelique, she was putting everything back. Her defensive game is really good and I just had to be patient and aggressive today.
"So it was not easy. My serve was not working like I was expecting but in the end I made it, so I was really happy."
Flipkens, the No. 13 seed in the singles draw, started slow before defeating American Venus Williams 0-6, 6-4, 6-2.
"I wasn't really expecting to play that well in the first set," Williams said. "So I think that in the second, I just kind of didn't handle it well. But I was pretty close there to closing that match out and then got down in the third."
In other first-round matches, No. 11 seed Maria Kirilenko of Russia beat qualifier Petra Martic of Croatia 6-2, 6-1 while Ivanovic, the No. 16 seed from Serbia, defeated Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan 6-1, 6-2.
"It's good to be back here," Ivanovic said. "I'm really looking forward to consistency and especially coming off how I played well last week.
"I hope [to] keep that momentum going and to keep playing well here."
Ivanovic reached the semifinal at the Southern California Open last weekend before losing to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.
Also Tuesday, No. 15 seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia topped Georgian qualifier Anna Tatishvili 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-3, Ekaterina Makarova of Russia beat Anastasia Rodionova of Australia 6-1, 7-5 and American qualifier Lauren Davis edged Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6, 7-5, 7-5.
France's Alize Cornet beat Russia's Elena Vesnina 6-3, 6-3; Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia defeated Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania 6-4, 6-3 and Italy's Francesca Schiavone defeated South Africa's Chanelle Scheepers 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.
In the late matches, third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland beat Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer 6-2, 6-3 while Stosur, the No. 12 seed from Australia, defeated Julia Glushko of Israel 5-7, 6-2, 6-3.