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Eugenie Bouchard

 

A good coach can teach you how to hit a forehand, develop a booming serve and plenty more, but one thing that can't be taught is composure in the biggest moments.

On Tuesday, 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard showed in her 5-7 7-5 6-2 quarterfinal win over 14th seed Ana Ivanovic that not only does she have all the shots but, more importantly, she's capable of withstanding huge pressure.

Bouchard, the 30th seed here, entered the match as the underdog. Of the 13 teenagers in the women’s draw, Bouchard was the only one to make it to the final eight.

Playing in her first Australian Open main draw – she played qualifying here last year but didn't make it through – Bouchard had battled her way through to the quarterfinals by way of a three-set win over Australian favourite Casey Dellacqua.

But on Tuesday she was facing Ivanovic, who was coming off the high of knocking out world No.1 Serena Williams in the fourth round. The question on everybody's lips prior to the match was could Ivanovic maintain her free-swinging play, or would she tighten with the pressure of being the favourite?

That question was soon answered when both players came out swinging from the hip, each racking up their share of winners and contributions to today's highlights tape. The first set was one of the most entertaining seen at this year’s Open.

Ivanovic's forehand was again a feature, while Bouchard was happy to return fire with her backhand. The Canadian teenager's ability to not only absorb Ivanovic's ground strokes but move forward into the court made life difficult for Ivanovic, who at times struggled with Bouchard's relentless attack.

And even if she missed a few, Bouchard didn't get down on herself and retreat behind the baseline; she stuck to her game plan and it paid off.

The tennis was of the quality you'd expect from a quarterfinal, what made it more impressive was the fact that Bouchard was keeping pace with Ivanovic, a Grand Slam winner in 2008 at Roland Garros and finalist here the same year.

Both had their chances early in the first set, but it was Ivanovic who took a 4-3 lead when Bouchard mis-hit a smash while looking into the sun.

It would be the first of five consecutive breaks of serve that finally came to an end in the 12th game of the set when Ivanovic held serve to close it out 7-5.

Ivanovic seemed to start the stronger of the two in the second set, but it was Bouchard who claimed the first break in the fourth game with a running crosscourt backhand.

The Serbian broke back at 4-3 but immediately left the court to receive treatment on what appeared to be a left leg problem.

From this point on, Ivanovic's concentration seemed to dip just a little. The fist pumps were less frequent and more errors crept into her game. The pair traded breaks again in the following two games before Bouchard snatched the set from Ivanovic with a final break in the 12th game by way of an undisciplined Ivanovic double fault.

Bouchard entered the final set with the momentum on her side of the court, while Ivanovic appeared to have a darkish cloud hanging over her head.

The 14th seed attacked her younger counterpart's second serve, probing for a weakness she could exploit. But Bouchard, once again, stood up to the examination and returned fire with a barrage of winners off both wings. And when Ivanovic netted a regulation backhand, Bouchard had the break for 3-1 and could see the finish line.

You could have forgiven Bouchard if she got tight as she closed in on her first Grand Slam semifinal, but the Canadian showed poise and calmness that belied her years.

And when she hit a final off-forehand winner to clinch her seventh break of the match, it was all over.

“I felt like she was playing well at times,” said Bouchard after the match. “I just tried to keep fighting and stay aggressive and step it up in the second and third.”

Bouchard will face dual Australian Open finalist Li Na, who earlier dispatched Flavia Pennetta in Tuesday's other quarterfinal.

These two have played once before in Montreal in 2012, a straight-sets victory to Li.

"We had a tough battle last time and I think I didn't have much experience then, but this time I think I'm ready," said Bouchard.

Li best be ready too.

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Post-Tournament
Friday, 21 November 2014
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