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Rising star Eugenie Bouchard ends Alize Cornet's run

by Kate Battersby
Monday 30 June 2014

Canada Day came 24 hours early at Wimbledon 2014. Alize Cornet may have caused the shock of the tournament by beating the world No.1 Serena Williams in the third round on Saturday, but the No.25 could go no further when she came up against the much talked-about Canadian Eugenie Bouchard in the last 16 on Monday.

The No.13 seed edged the first set and then reeled off the last four games of the match to take it 7-6(5), 7-5 for a place in her third Grand Slam quarter-final of the year; moreover, she has yet to lose a set.

“She’s a good fighter,” said Bouchard, who opted for more regular gear on this occasion than the startling scarlet-and-white kimono she sported at her post-match press conference on Saturday evening (she had just received it as a gift from a Japanese television crew and decided to wear it right away). “We were really battling and we had a tough tie-break. I’m proud that I stayed in it. Even though I was playing catch-up, I always felt right there, trying to put pressure on all the time.

“When I was down in the second set I had full belief and confidence in myself that I wasn’t out. It wasn’t over. I stepped up on the important moments. That’s definitely the most physical match I’ve played this tournament. I really fought to the end.

“I’ve learned a lot this year since Australia,” she said. “The main thing is the confidence I’ve added since the beginning of the year. I believe in myself and I’ve proved to myself I can play on the big stage. I’ve played on centre courts, most of the Slams, big moments, big matches. I’m proud of the way I can handle it.”

The match began in warm and cloudy conditions but was suspended for 35 minutes after a cloudburst on serve at 3-2. Once the Centre Court roof had done its work (“I follow the roof on Twitter – I hope he’s proud of how I played,” said Bouchard), the first set was nip and tuck with neither giving crucial ground before the tie-break. But the Frenchwoman will wish she had done more with the three break point chances she held, especially as she delivered far fewer errors than her opponent – a natural consequence of Bouchard’s attacking game. The 20-year-old, four years the younger but steely and assured, clinched the breaker with an ace for set point followed by a power return which Cornet put in the net.

Yet it was Cornet – the French No.1 since the retirement last summer of reigning Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli – who appeared the more confident at the start of the second, breaking for 4-2. But mistakes crept into her game, and her repeated failed challenges only lent her a flailing air. She deserved better after her wonderful victory over Williams, which feels like such an important landmark in her rise back up the rankings – having reached No.11 in February 2009, she lost so many matches in the next two years that she repeatedly thought about quitting altogether as her ranking plummeted below 100.

After her victory over Serena (her second consecutive such over the world No.1), this fourth round encounter had the look of a match-up which we will see many times in future years. But Cornet had never beaten a top 20 player in a Grand Slam before, and she could not make it two in a row. It is Bouchard – the junior Wimbledon champion of only two years ago – who has a place in the last eight.

It is well known that her intensely Royalist mother Julie named her and her twin sister after the princesses Eugenie and Beatrice; she also has a brother called William (and a sister Charlotte). Asked if she has princess-like tendencies, Bouchard said straight away: “Yes. Ask anyone. I can be a princess. I can be moody in the morning. My fitness trainer carries my tennis bag around. But that’s so I don’t get tired. I can demand a few things once in a while – but I do it with love.”

The Canadian really is an absolutely intriguing prospect in just her fourth career grass court tournament. Earlier this month she was utterly relaxed, lacking only a little experience, in her Roland Garros semi-final against the eventual champion Maria Sharapova, the player to whom she is most frequently likened, presumably on the basis of the mutual blondeness and excellence. But young Ms Bouchard is absolutely her own person, and it is very difficult to believe that the great prizes will not be hers sooner or later... and probably sooner, since you ask. 

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