Last year it was Sloane Stephens, this year the new girl is Eugenie Bouchard. The 19-year-old became the first Canadian to ever reach the semifinals at the Australian Open following a tough 57, 75, 62 win over 2008 finalist Ana Ivanovic.
Bouchard, ranked No. 31, couldn’t even make it through qualifying last year at the event. But this season she’s the breakout star of the WTA.
Bouchard’s run takes her to another former finalist next in the semifinals, 2013 runner-up Li Na. She’s never even won a title before!
Afterward she met the press:
Q. What do you think the key was to the win today?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I think it was really just staying with her, battling. 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 early this year. She was playing really well.
I just had to stay with her, try to control the point a little bit more. I think late in the second set I decided to use my forehand a little bit more and I think that worked well.
Q. Was it more of a point of her aggressiveness dropping away or did you feel you got more aggressive?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I think I got more aggressive. And like I said, ball’s in the middle of the court, try to take my forehand a bit more to control the point. Even in the third she was still serving really well, trying to go for her shots. It was a battle of, yeah, aggressiveness a bit.
Q. During the match you dropped your tossing ball twice. Is that because of the wind?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: Only twice in the whole match? I’m fine with that.
Q. (Question regarding Justin Bieber.)
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: There was a swear word in that question. I don’t think I’m going to answer that.
Q. You seemed very composed and calm out there. What were you feeling inside? How do you feel now going to the semifinals?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I tried to stay calm. I tried to for sure show I was calm. I did feel confident. Having lost the first set and things like that, 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, you know, my game kind of got a bit better as the match went on. I feel like in the first set I was close, but I was kind of missing shots just by a little bit, hitting the tape of the net, just a bit out.
I felt like my game was there and I just needed to relax a little bit and play.
Q. Coming back after losing the first set, do you take confidence moving into the semifinals against someone like Li Na that you can come back?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: For sure. But even if I had won in straights today, I would still have that confidence. I always believe in my ability. That’s why it’s two sets to win a match. You never know what can happen.
No matter what’s going to happen, I’m just going to try my best. Even if I’m down, I always fight.
Q. What is it like to be a tennis player in a country obsessed with ice hockey?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: Well hopefully they’ll care a little bit more about tennis now. Yeah, it’s definitely not the most popular sport there.
But I think it’s growing. I think it’s getting better. I’m just trying to do the best I can for myself, for the country as well.
Q. I can imagine you never played ice hockey.
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: No.
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I can barely skate. It’s really bad.
Q. Have you ever met or do you know Carling Bassett?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: No. I have never met her, but I have heard of her accomplishments. I know she was obviously the best female Canadian player ever.
Q. Never any interactions, seen her, met her, nothing?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I don’t think so, no.
Q. Ana said your game is really tough to read because your tennis doesn’t have any specific pattern. Is that what you tried to do?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I tried to be aggressive. Obviously it’s good to mix it up. I think I just really try to take the ball early. I think that’s good because it takes away time from the opponent. She has less time to guess where I’m going or try to read where I’m going. I think that’s an advantage I try to use on the court.
Q. During the injury timeout, how hard was it to stay focused?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: It wasn’t that hard for me. We just had a really hard, tough game that I lost. I was up 4 1, then I went 4 3. I wasn’t sitting there thinking I was ahead or anything. I was a bit disappointed with that last game.
I was just really trying to think about what I had to do better. I think that time, it was fine for me just to regroup. I broke right away after, so it was okay.
Q. The Genie Army, are you going to take them everywhere with you?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I’m going to fly them to all my tournaments with me.
Q. Is there a pinch me part of this for you?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: No. 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, you know, gone through this step. I’m not done. I have a match on Thursday. I’m just looking forward to that.
Q. Was there any point in the match where you felt you had it in the bag?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: After I won, yeah (smiling).
I mean, it’s really important for me to stay focused, focus on one point at a time. There are crazy ups and downs in matches all the time. You never know. Even if you’re up, you can still lose.
I think I handled it well today, being up. I just kept trying to play and kept trying to put pressure.
Q. What are your thoughts on Li Na as your next opponent?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: Well, she’s a great champion. She’s won a slam, as well. It’s going to be really tough. I played her once in Montréal two years ago. We had a close match. But it was one of my first bigger matches.
It will be interesting to play her. I know she’s very solid, very good from the back. It’s going to be hard, but I’m looking forward to it.
Q. What would you say in terms of matches against big players in the past prepared you best for a situation like today?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I think the matches I had last year on the big courts, like the center courts, like Sharapova at the French Open, Ivanovic at Wimbledon, just being on those big stages gave me a lot of experience.
Now walking out on center 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.
Q. Do you know the Genie Army personally?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: No. They’re from here. They’ve been supporting me from my first match. I was out on Court 15 from my first round. They were there with their T shirts and everything.
They’ve been a really good support team. Looking forward to my next match. They’re great. They come up with these songs. I got a wombat today.
Q. Are you going to have a meeting with them?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: Have a meeting (laughter)? Maybe at the end of the tournament, but for now it’s going fine.
Q. How would you describe yourself outside and inside the court?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I think I’m pretty similar on both. I’m a really focused person, really driven. So off the court I’m kind of almost impatient in a way. I like to get things done. On the court I’m the same way.
In the point, I really just want to play my game, be aggressive, take it to my opponent, and not just wait around and wait for opportunities.
I think it’s a good thing to take my chances when I’m on the court.
Q. You have five animals?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I have a Koala, and kangaroo, a kookaburra, and a wombat. They skipped the first match.
Q. Do you have luggage space?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I will create luggage space. It’s worth it to take my wombat home.
Q. It’s a packed press room. Are you prepared with the kind of attention that comes with making your first semifinal?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I don’t know. Hopefully. I just try to take it in stride. Like I said earlier, it’s not a huge surprise to me because I always believe in my skills and things like that. It’s something I’ve been working a long time for.
It’s not really sudden or anything like that. I just want to keep going. If there’s more attention, well, that’s a good thing.
Q. Do you have your family here with you?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I have my mom with me. The rest of my family has been watching back home.
Q. Getting messages from them daily?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: Yeah. They’re really excited.
Q. Do you know Li Na is 12 years older than you? Do you think because she’s more experienced on the court, it’s going to be a big issue for you on Thursday?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I think she’s a great player. Obviously a lot of the players now are playing better with age. So for sure she’s still at the top of her game and it will be tough. For sure she’s been in a lot more situations like this than me.
I think I’ve been doing well this week handling big moments on the court. So I’m feeling confident and just excited to play.
Q. Have you ever exchanged words with her in the locker room? Do you feel there’s going to be some generation gap because she’s way older than you?
EUGENIE BOUCHARD: Well, I think the older players are excited to see kind of a new group of players. But for us young ones, it’s still tough because they are still playing well. Serena is still dominating, you know, at however old she is. It’s still tough for us.
But I think it makes it really interesting. We’ve seen in this tournament, there have been some upsets. I think some players can still lose on any given day and it still makes it extremely interesting.
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