Li Na vs Eugenie Bouchard Preview – Australian Open 2014 SF

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Na Li Australian Open


Another remarkable story took place in the women’s portion of the draw, as 19-year-old rising star Eugenie Bouchard took the WTA tour by storm, when she defeated Ana Ivanovic, fresh off a victory over Serena Williams, in a three set battle in Centre Court. The win send her to the semi-final stage of a Grand Slam event for the first time in her young career. It is also the first time a Canadian makes the semi-final stage since 1984 – a remarkable feat for a teenager. Now, the obstacles only grow harder for the budding talent, as she will go up against last year’s finalist Li Na for a spot in the final.  Th Li Na vs Bouchard Head to Head stands at 1-0, with the Chinese winning over Bouchard on home soil in Montreal two years ago.

Bouchard entered the quarter-final contest as a significant underdog. She was the 30th seed, while Ivanovic was the 14th. She had also lost their only previous encounter last year at Wimbledon. Yet, when the match started, they appeared to be on even terms, striking the ball with confidence and hunting for winners. They would remain on serve for the opening six games but would then witness breaks of serve for the following five games until Ivanovic finally consolidated her break advantage to serve out the set 7-5.

Determined to remain in the match, Bouchard pressured Ivanovic constantly in the second set, but still fell behind a 3-5 but managed to save herself and win the following two games. She followed that up with two more games, to snatch the set 7-5. The Canadian picked up the pace on her end, while Ivanovic was clearly struggling through an apparent groin injury that required the assistance of a trainer. Bouchard rushed to a 4-1 elad, then pushed to 5-2 before closing out the match with a winner on Ivanovic;s serve to win 5-7, 7-5, 6-2.

“The key was really just staying with her, battling,” Bouchard said. “I played her once last year. I feel like she’s playing at a much higher level right now. I know she won a tournament earlier this year, and she was playing really well – so I just had to stay with her and try to control the point a little more.

“Having lost the first set, I just tried to focus on what I had to do during the point to try to win, really try to keep pressing her and moving forward. That’s what kept me really calm, and I felt like my game kind of got better as the match went on. I just needed to relax a little bit and keep playing my game.”

Earlier in the evening, Chinese No. 1 Li Na became the first female into the semi-finals with her dominant victory over Italy’s Flavia Pennetta.  The world No. 4 was in fantastic form during the match, as she hit 23 winners against Pennetta to win the match 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and seven minutes. Pennetta, one of the fastest players on the WTA tour, was unable to get a grip on the match, as Li continued to pressure forward with a new-found aggression rarely seen from her.

“I prepared at least one and a half days for this match,” Li said. “I knew she was going to be a tough opponent – I had played her four times before, and every time was tough. But I don’t really know what happened today. I just played really well. I just prepared really well before I came to the court.

“I’m really happy. Everyone wants to win a Grand Slam, but you have to be in the semis first, right?”

The two competitors have only met once on the tour, in a contest that cannot be over-analyzed heading into the semi-final because of how vastly different Bouchard was back in 2012 from her current form in 2014. 17 years old at the time, Bouchard lost that match in straight sets to Li and has not faced her since then. The Chinese No. 1 is a far more aggressive and persistent player than Ivanovic was and likely capitalize on her opportunities more than the Serb did. Bouchard will need to focus on winning her service games – an issue she had against Ivanovic – as well as not rushing the shots and looking for instant winners on all her returns. If she can find that patience and focus, she will be a significant threat to the two-time runner-up.

Prediction: Li Na in Three Sets

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