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Bouchard's play modestly catches sports fans' attention in hockey-mad hometown

Eugenie Bouchard of Canada practises serving during a training session at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. Not only has Montreal's Bouchard won over tennis fans with her impressive run at the Australian Open — she's even made a minor dent in her hockey-loving hometown's spectator-sports scene. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Aijaz Rahi

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Eugenie Bouchard of Canada practises serving during a training session at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. Not only has Montreal's Bouchard won over tennis fans with her impressive run at the Australian Open — she's even made a minor dent in her hockey-loving hometown's spectator-sports scene. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Aijaz Rahi

MONTREAL - Not only has Montreal's Eugenie Bouchard won over tennis fans with her impressive run at the Australian Open — she's even made a minor dent in her hockey-loving hometown's spectator-sports scene.

One of the city's best-known sports bars has already reserved 120 seats for Bouchard's semifinal match Wednesday night against China's Li Na — and the manager is expecting nearly twice that many people to show up for the event.

Johnny Nunes of Champs Bar said he's never seen so much interest in a tennis match.

"I have a feeling it's going to be fun," he said.

But the rising tennis star from the city's Westmount enclave still has work to do before she approaches anything close to the drawing power of the beloved Montreal Canadiens.

An employee at another popular sports bar, near Westmount, wasn't sure whether they would show the tennis match on their big-screen TVs because the Canadiens were scheduled to play a road game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"If it's during the hockey game, we can't do it," said the woman, before being told that Bouchard's match was scheduled to start after Montreal's game was expected to end.

"It's after the hockey game? No problem."

Meanwhile, employees at two different bars in Westmount said they didn't have plans to show Bouchard's match — and one indicated he had never even heard of her.

"To tell you the truth, I have no idea who Eugene Bouchard is," said the man, flubbing her name as he attempted to repeat it.

That seems hard to believe, considering Bouchard is at the forefront of a tennis revival in Canada that includes men's stars Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil, who are both in the top 30 of the ATP rankings.

Bouchard, the world No. 31, has a tough challenge ahead of her in the fourth-ranked Li, but a win would send Canadian tennis into uncharted territory.

No Canadian has ever reached a singles final of a Grand Slam event. In fact, the only other Canadian to reach a semifinal at a major event was Carling Bassett, who lost to Chris Evert in the semis of the 1984 U.S. Open.

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