Eugenie Bouchard sets sights on Li Na in last four
Young Canadian playing in main draw for first time beat Ana Ivanovic in quarter-final
Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in action against Ana Ivanovic of Serbia at the Australian Open in Melbourne. Photograph: Narenda Shrestha/EPA
Li Na of China in action against Flavia Pennetta of Italy in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in Melbourne. Photograph: Mark Dadswell/EPA
The 19-year-old is playing in the main draw in Melbourne for the first time, and the main draw of a grand slam for only the fourth time, but has looked completely at home on the big stage.
She did not allow losing the first set against Serena Williams’ conqueror to bother her and got stronger as the match went on to beat Ivanovic 5-7 7-5 6-2.
She was again roared on by ‘Genie’s Army’, a group of Australians who have been supporting the Canadian in all her matches. After the last four matches they have thrown her a cuddly toy onto court, and on Tuesday she received a wombat to go with her koala, kangaroo and kookaburra.
“I will create luggage space,” she said. “It’s worth it to take my wombat home.”
Bouchard was named the WTA’s newcomer of the year in 2013 and she went into this tournament seeded for the first time at a grand slam. But there is no sense of wide-eyed excitement for the teenager, who faces fourth seed and two-time Australian Open champion Li Na in the last four.
Bouchard said: “It’s something I’ve been doing since I was five years old and working my whole life for and sacrificing a lot of things for. So it’s not exactly a surprise. I always expect myself to do well.
“I’m just happy to have gone through this step. I’m not done. I have a match on Thursday. I’m just looking forward to that.”
It is Bouchard’s temperament that marks her out from her fellow young guns. Ivanovic had just pegged the Canadian back from 4-1 to 4-3 in the second set when she took a lengthy medical time-out, but Bouchard won the next game and, eventually, the set.
“I tried for sure to show I was calm,” she said. “I did feel confident. Having lost the first set, I just tried to focus on what I had to do during the point to try to win, really just try to keep pressing her and moving forward.
“That’s what kept me really calm. I felt like my game got a bit better as the match went on. In the first set I was close but I was missing shots just by a little bit.
“I think the matches I had last year on the big courts, like (Maria) Sharapova at the French Open, Ivanovic at Wimbledon, just being on those big stages gave me a lot of experience.
“Now walking out on centre court in Australia, I feel like I’ve been here before. I’ve been able to perform on big stages as well. It gives me that extra confidence.”
The defeat was a major disappointment for Ivanovic after the high of her win over Williams, but she refused to blame a leg problem.
“She played really well, especially in that third set,” said the 26-year-old, who has not made the semi-finals at a slam since winning the French Open in 2008.
“It was a very tough match. I felt I was emotionally a little bit flat. But if at the beginning of the summer someone told me this would be the outcome, I would agree to it. I had some really good wins, some very emotional wins, and a lot of positive things came out of it.
“Obviously it’s very disappointing the way it ended. But I feel like I played maybe the best tennis of my life.”
Li has been in dominant form since saving a match point against Lucie Safarova in her third-round match and she raced past Flavia Pennetta 6-2 6-2. The Chinese made the final last year, losing to Victoria Azarenka, while in 2011 she was beaten by Kim Clijsters before winning her only grand slam title at the French Open.