There may be some conflicted patriotism in a certain rowdy bunch of spectators when Casey Dellacqua takes on Eugenie Bouchard in a round-of-16 match in Rod Laver Arena tonight.
The comely, 19-year-old Canadian has an enthusiastic cheer squad at Melbourne Park that calls itself ‘Genie’s Army.’ They are all Melburnians and deck themselves in $25 t-shirts that spell out G-E-N-I-E-! – with the emphasis on that exclamation mark.
“Their songs are getting stuck in my head because they’re singing them so much,” Bouchard joked on Friday after her third-round win over Lauren Davis.
Bouchard and Dellacqua, daughters of Commonwealth nations, come from varied backgrounds. Bouchard, of French-Canadian and Irish-Canadian ancestry, grew up in the Montreal suburb of Westmount on the same street as former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Dellacqua, was raised in an Italian-heritage family in Perth, with a grandmother who was the eldest of 10 children and who, according to Casey, “is a lovely lady, loves every one of us (grandchildren) equally.”
As Dellacqua, ranked No. 120, noted on Friday, “even eight months ago I was playing a couple of $50,000 (Challenger) events in Bendigo.” Eight months ago, Bouchard was already in Philippe Chatrier Court at Roland Garros playing Maria Sharapova (a loss), and then a month later faced Ana Ivanovic (a win) in Centre Court at Wimbledon.
So the 178cm Canadian, Wimbledon junior champion in 2012, has experience on the biggest stages and should not be over-awed at Rod Laver Arena.
Dellacqua, 28 and 165cm, is aware of Bouchard’s ability, saying, “she’s a very quality player. She’s seeded (30) here. She’s on the rise. She’s got a great serve. She’s going to be tough.”
For all Bouchard’s showbiz glitz – Nike photo-shoots with Sharapova and Roger Federer etc. – she’s a tough-as-nails, highly-driven competitor.
She has powerful ground strokes the like of which Dellacqua has not faced so far at Melbourne Park. Dealing with them will be the West Australian’s No. 1 priority, along with more seasonal temperatures and not the extremes that allowed her feel “solar-powered” in her last two matches.
Like Dellacqua, Ana Ivanovic will face a big challenge against an opponent’s ruthless shotmaking – and so far in four career meetings with Serena Williams, the 26-year-old Serb has yet to win more than four games in a set. Still, Ivanovic has nothing to lose and should feel liberated after Friday’s rollercoaster win over Samantha Stosur.
Li Na is also playing with house money after surviving a match point against Lucie Safarova in the third round. She is 4-0 versus next opponent Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, but their matches have usually been close.
The most intriguing of Sunday’s men’s matches has sturdy Swiss Stan Wawrinka playing Tommy Robredo. The 31-year-old Spaniard is having a brilliant second act to his career after three mediocre seasons marred by a leg injury that required surgery. It’s surprising he carries a 6-1 head-to-head advantage over Wawrinka going into the Rod Laver Arena match tonight, winning both meetings in 2013.
Less of a surprise is that Tomas Berdych is 9-0 versus Kevin Anderson, with all those matches in 2012-13, and that Novak Djokovic is unbeaten (6-0) against flamboyant Fabio Fognini.
Getting back to Bouchard-Dellacqua, if ‘Genie’s Army’ is able to get tickets and make its presence felt, and the world famous ‘Fanatics’ are in their usual rambunctious form supporting Dellacqua, Rod Laver patrons are in for a good old Aussie stoush tonight.
TOM’S INTREPID TIPS
S. Williams vs Ivanovic
Ivanovic has not won a set in four previous meetings with Serena, but finally breaks through – even though she doesn’t win. Serena in three.
Ferrer vs Mayer
Ferrer is adjusting to changing coaches after 15 years with Javier Piles, but he’s still indomitable against all but the very best, which doesn’t include Mayer. Ferrer in four.
Bouchard vs Dellacqua
Canadian teenager Bouchard jumped from 144 to 32 in the rankings in 2013, and continues her ascent to reach a first career Grand Slam quarter-final against Dellacqua. Bouchard in straight.
Berdych vs Anderson
Berdych has perfect 9-0 slate against the 203cm Anderson, and extends it to doubles figures but not before a few scary moments. Berdych in four.
Makarova vs Li
No. 22-ranked Makarova, with wins over both Venus and Serena Williams over her last three Australian Opens, upsets No. 4 Li at Hisense Arena. Makarova in three.
Wawrinka vs Robredo
Only one win in seven previous matches with Robredo could be a mental block, but Wawrinka breaks through for his second win, six years after the first. Wawrinka in four.
Pennetta vs Kerber
At 31, Pennetta is going through a revival after reaching the semi-finals of the 2013 US Open. With a win here over Kerber, she’s one match away from another Grand Slam final four. Pennetta in three.
Djokovic vs Fognini
Djokovic is unbeaten (6-0) against the casual, clever ball-striking of Fognini, but he loses his way for a set before prevailing. Djokovic in four.