MONTREAL — They’re armed with T-shirts, face paint and posters — and they’re headed to Montreal.
Founding members of the Genie Army, a group of Eugenie Bouchard supporters who cheered for the rising tennis star during the Australian Open in January, will be in the city for the Rogers Cup, beginning this weekend.
The fan club is made up of about a dozen people and six of them are making the long journey to Canada for the tournament.
“We thought it would be a great chance to support Genie in her hometown and have the home crowd cheer along with us,” said Stephen Ganavas, a 17-year-old student living in Melbourne.
Dressed in red and white and waving a banner with her name, the Genie Army emerged as Bouchard’s unofficial cheering section during an impressive run in January. She ended up losing to the eventual winner, Li Na, in the semifinal.
The Australian devotees, mostly men in their early 20s, readily admit they have no ties to Canada and no connection with Bouchard. They acknowledge the tall blond’s looks may have played a part in their decision to support her.
Ganavas said he and his friends also wanted to back an “up-and-comer” in the tournament and Bouchard fit the bill to a T after showing her potential at Wimbledon in 2013.
“Genie is great because she is so genuine and down-to-earth,” he said in an email exchange.
“For example, after she had just lost at the Australian Open to Li Na, she came out onto the grounds and just had a chat with us when she could have been relaxing and thinking about the match she had just lost.”
It’s been a landmark year for Bouchard.
After her success in Australia, the 20-year-old made it all the way to the semis in the French Open in June before playing in the Wimbledon final on July 5.
She enters the Rogers Cup at No. 7 in the world rankings.
In the process, Bouchard, who hails from the Montreal-area community of Westmount, has gained a whole new legion of fans.
Other Genie Army clubs have sprouted up in Montreal, Quebec City and Trois-Rivieres. The hashtag GenieArmy was a trending topic on Twitter during Wimbledon.
And a special Genie Army ticket package to watch Bouchard at the Rogers Cup is already sold out.
Meanwhile, the original fan club from Australia has also gained a following of its own.
A Genie Army website is under construction and the group is planning to sell T-shirts inspired by those they wore at the Australian Open. One reads, “Eat, Sleep, Genie, Repeat.”
And, after having their faces splashed across newspapers, websites and highlight reels during the Australian Open, members of the Genie Army will become a sort of cause celebre in Montreal.
The group will attend an official photo this Saturday and, according to a news release, fans will “have the chance to take their photo with the now famous group.”