Tonight at the Australian Open, 19-year-old Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount, Que., will do what no Canadian singles player has done in 22 years – play a quarter-final match at a Grand Slam. The 30th-seeded Bouchard, coming off a breakout 2013 season, will face tournament No. 14-seed Ana Ivanovic.
First dance in Melbourne
Bouchard is playing in the main draw of the Australian Open for the first time. She lost out in the qualifiers last year in Melbourne as she began her first full season on the senior WTA Tour. She had opened the 2013 season ranked 147th in the world, and ended it at No.32, winning the Tour’s Newcomer of the Year award. It’s the first time she has been seeded at a major.
Bouchard’s path to this point
Many top-ranked women have fallen early in Melbourne, so Bouchard has so far sidestepped seeded opponents, dropping just one set through four matches while eliminating Hao Chen Tang, Virginie Razzano, Lauren Davis and Casey Dellacqua. Elsewhere in Bouchard’s quarter of the bracket, Samantha Stosur (17), Sara Errani (7), Kirsten Flipkens (18), Roberta Vinci (12), and top-seeded star Serena Williams have all been upset.
About her opponent
The Canadian has met Ivanovic once before, last season on Centre Court at Wimbledon. A then-unseeded Bouchard needed just 62 minutes to earn a 6-3, 6-3 win over the Serbian player, who was then ranked No. 12. Ivanovic, a former world No.1, has had some taxing three-set-marathons so far in this tournament, namely against Stosur and Williams. Ivanovic hasn’t lost a match yet in 2014, coming off a tournament win in Auckland. Winner of the 2008 French Open, and a finalist at the ‘08 Australian Open, Ivanovic is rolling after some very inconsistent play in the past few seasons. The winner of this match will go on to face the player who advances from the quarter-final between fourth-seeded Na Li of China and 28th-seeded Italian, Flavia Pennetta. Li and Pennetta are first up Tuesday morning at Rod Laver Arena (7 p.m. ET), and Bouchard and Ivanovic follow right after.
A cool and confident newcomer
In her post-match press conference after beating Australia’s Dellacqua, Bouchard said she had come into that match off a comfortable 12-hour night’s rest, sleeping in until noon. No sign of jitters for the youngster there. The 5-foot-10 blonde, already part of Nike’s roster of tennis athletes, has been followed around by a rollicking group of adoring Australian fans in red and white T-shirts dubbed ‘Genie’s Army’, who sing to her and throw Australian-themed stuffed animals in her direction after each match.
How significant is this?
Bouchard the first Canadian since Patricia Hy-Boulais at the 1992 U.S. Open to play this deep into a Grand Slam tournament. A win tonight would make Bouchard only the second Canadian in history to reach the semi-finals at a major, following Carling Bassett, who did so at the 1984 U.S Open. Bouchard’s WTA ranking is expected to rise as high as No. 21 after this tournament.