PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANNE MENKE
When two of the biggest stars in tennis and golf, Eugenie “Genie” Bouchard and Michelle Wie respectively, met for the first time last week, you would have thought they were lifelong friends. Both Nike athletes, they had been brought together for a promotional event and quickly hit it off, literally, hitting golf and tennis balls, and exchanging coaching tips. Their rapport was instant and their ability to pick up each other’s sport didn’t lag too far behind.
Korean-American Michelle Wie, 27 years old, has been on the LPGA tour since just before her 16th birthday and is currently #34 in the Rolex Ranking. Though at age 10 she became the youngest player to qualify for a USGA amateur championship, Wie actually had dreams of becoming a professional tennis player. This phenom’s golf game was better than her tennis game, however, and so the clubs beat the racquet. Wie won her first major at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. Though she doesn’t get much of a chance to play tennis these days, after a few pointers from Genie, she quickly showed she’s still got some game.
Canadian Genie Bouchard, 23 years old, is currently ranked 57th in the WTA and has been a force to contend with since she hit the tour: named WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2013 and WTA Most Improved Player in 2014. She was the 2014 Wimbledon runner-up, and semi-finalist in both the Australian and French Open that same year. Though Bouchard has virtually no golf experience, she was swinging like a pro after just a few tips from Michelle.
Following a morning together on the driving range at Chelsea Piers, and afternoon on the courts at Hudson River Park, we caught up with these two to find out what they learned from each other’s game and a few tips to share with us amateurs!
STYLE OF SPORT: What a thrill it is to meet you both! Genie, I’ll start with you. Tell us a little bit about your golf experience and what tips you picked up from Michelle today.
Genie: I didn’t have much golf experience before today. I played once when I was 10 years old at summer camp and I was really bad, so I didn’t have any expectations today. But Michelle gave me some amazing technical pointers and I did much better than I expected!
SOS: Michelle… is there one tip in particular you gave to Genie you could share to help the rest of us with our game?
Michelle: The sports are so different. With tennis the ball is in the air and you have to hit it while it’s in motion. With golf, the ball is on the ground. I told her just to come in and hit down on it. She did amazing!
Genie: Hitting down on it really helped me because in tennis I’m used to hitting the ball straight on. I had to really swing downwards.
SOS: Is there something you learned from golf today that would help with your tennis game or are they two completely different things?
Genie: In terms of the swing it’s definitely different, but Michelle gave me a lot of advice about keeping my eye on the ball which is so important in tennis too. I was trying to hit the golf ball like I would the tennis ball and that seemed to help me.
SOS: And now Michelle, let me ask you about your tennis background.
Michelle: I used to play as a kid but I haven’t played in a long time. I found when I played a lot of tennis it would mess up my golf swing. I think the thing I learned today was just to be more reactive. Even though the ball is stationary, you still have to be very athletic, especially with different lines, and react to the situation. With tennis you’re always reacting to the ball. Genie told me to be prepared before you get there. I like that mentality because it’s the same for golf.
SOS: Genie… what were some of the pointers you gave Michelle?
Genie: We worked on her swing. Her racket face was a little too open, kind of like the golf club, so we focused on trying to keep it a bit more closed.
SOS: I saw some top spin happening out there Michelle! Let me ask you both about your style. Michelle, we featured your Nike Blazer golf shoe when it first debuted, and I remember you had your hair dyed in multi-colors at the same time. The golf shoe was based on a Nike basketball classic, and now Nike has just released the Nike Course for golf inspired by the Nike Tennis Classic. How would you define your golf style?
Michelle: Comfort and performance are the number one things I care about, but stylewise I like to think I’m a little edgy — not your typical kind of golfer. Genie and I kind of bonded on that earlier today… our love of a crop top!
SOS: Well, you two have the bodies to rock them!
Michelle: We did a little scissor action…
Genie: She cut her golf top!
Michelle: And Genie tied hers in a knot. It was so funny!
SOS: Genie talk to me a little bit about your style on and off the court.
Genie: The clothes I get to wear on the tennis court are so cute and individual. I have my own Nike outfit for each Grand Slam and throughout the season. Michelle was talking about crop tops and I was with the Nike designer two years ago begging for crop tops. I finally got them this year in Australia!
SOS I remember that. I think you were one of the only Nike players to wear it. I don’t remember seeing anyone else working the midriff!
Genie: I was the only one! I love bringing trends that you see on the streets and the runways onto the tennis court.
SOS: We’re looking forward to seeing what you’ll be sporting at the US Open here in New York in a few weeks, and Michelle, no doubt you have some fashion surprises in store for us too. It’s been great talking to you both and good luck with the rest of your seasons!
Chelsea Piers images courtesy of Nike. All other photographs by Anne Menke