Canada's Eugenie Bouchard is a win away from a likely fourth-round meeting with the top female tennis star on the planet, but she has a mighty obstacle to overcome first.
Back in 2011, in just the fourth WTA match of her young career, an 17-year-old Eugenie Bouchard suffered a 6-2, 6-2 beat-down from then-world No.10 Andrea Petkovic at Toronto's Rogers Cup, long before there was a Genie's Army, or a national fascination with the Canadian rising tennis star.
Fast-forward to Saturday at Wimbledon, and Petkovic stands between now-13th-ranked Bouchard and a likely fourth-round matchup with 17-time Grand Slam champion and World No.1 Serena Williams. Bouchard has made it to the semi-finals at both majors of 2014 so far, but she is winless in three meetings with Petkovic, the others three-set losses in Luxembourg (2013) and in the semi-finals at Charleston this past April. And Bouchard isn't the only one coming off stunning recent success in Paris either – Petkovic too had a captivating run to the French Open semis.
Since that first meeting back in August of 2011, Bouchard has swiftly risen from the ranks of promising newcomer to serious contender. The Canadian had been ranked No. 351 in the world at the time they first met in the Round of 64 matchup in Toronto, and was still a year away from winning her junior Wimbledon title. Petkovic, on the other hand, was a 23-year-old rising star navigating a run to the quarter-finals, and breaking into the Top 10, becoming the first German woman to finish the year that way since the legendary Steffi Graf had in 1998. Petkovic's star was rising.
"I remember it being a really big occasion for me at the time," the now-20-year-old Montreal native said of their 2011 meeting. "It was my first wild card into the main draw at the Rogers Cup – it was a big deal for me.
"I remember it was really close at the beginning, I stayed with her. In the end she kind of overpowered me a bit – but I learned a lot from that match."
Bouchard arrives in the third round at the All-England Club by way of straight-sets victories over Spain's Silvia Soler-Espinosa and Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, making her first push beyond the second round at Wimbledon. Petkovic has toppled Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania and Poland's Katarzyna Piter to get to this point.
While the Montrealer's rise been a steady spike upwards, the past three years have been a wildly dipping rollercoaster for the German. She suffered back, ankle and knee injuries over 2012 and 2013, and her ranking plummeted as low as No. 177. She even lost out in the qualifying round at Roland Garros last season and nearly quit the sport. But now, she appears to be back with a vengeance, charging back to No.39 in the world by the end of 2013 and now sitting at No. 20 with one tournament title to her name this season already.
"I know it's going to be really, really tough," said Petkovic of the coming match with Bouchard. "A lot will depend on the serve, how well I move after the serve, because she returns so aggressively."
The winner of this match will face the victor of Saturday's match between Williams and Alize Cornet.
Bouchard isn't the only Canadian taking the court Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in London/6:30 am ET. Milos Raonic, currently ranked No.8, has also advanced to the third round and will face World No. 72 Lukasz Kubot of Poland.
The 6-foot-5 native of Thornhill, Ont. had never advanced past the second round at Wimbledon until this week.