Friday, April 4, 2014
Eugenie Bouchard took a minute to let the biggest win of her career soak in as the Family Circle Cup audience erupted around her.
There was no screaming, no yelling, very little celebration at all. The 20-year-old showed veteran poise with a smile and a tip of her Nike visor like she's made for this stage. And as the wins pile up this week, it seems more and more like she is.
Bouchard defeated world No. 8 Jelena Jankovic, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, Friday in the Family Circle Cup quarterfinals. The win comes on the heels of her defeat of former champion Venus Williams less than 24 hours earlier.
Four players remain in the tournament's singles draw but none luring the spotlight-shining like tennis' newest rising superstar.
“She can let loose and just play her game,” Jankovic said. “She's young and fresh and hungry and she wants to do well.”
Tied at three-all in the opening set, Bouchard won the final three games with perfect showings in the seventh and ninth games to win the set.
Bouchard battled Jankovic through long rallies to a 4-3 lead in the second set. Jankovic responded with wins in the next three games to take the set and even the match.
“I think she did a good job of stepping in and controlling,” Bouchard said. “I was really on the run a lot in the second and that's fine, but that's not where I want to be most of the time. So I just thought I needed to get back to my game.”
Bouchard fell into a 2-1 hole early in the third set but regained control to win five of the final six games, including the last three to win the match. In a tight seventh game, Bouchard powered an ace past Jankovic, leaving the Serbian staring blankly across the court.
“I let her take control of the match,” Jankovic said. “It could have went either way if I was a little bit tougher out there and played certain points a little smarter, but that's the game. Eugenie was the better one today.”
Bouchard's play continues to validate her rise in stock over the past year. Wednesday's win made up for a loss to Williams September in Toyko. Thursday's win repented for a loss to Jankovic in last year's Family Circle Cup quarterfinals. A win Saturday would be her first against No. 14 seed Andrea Petkovic and another strong step in solidifying her status among the world's elite.
“I didn't want it to be Groundhog Day today. Same tournament, same round, same opponent,” Bouchard said after defeating Jankovic. “I'm happy with my improvement from last year and just really excited to have another match tomorrow.”
After the match, fans lined the fences outside the stadium tunnel seeking autographs and pictures. The scene is typical, but for Bouchard, the energy was a little higher. And she actually stops to sign. She plays into the excitement, signing tennis balls all the way down the fence and posing for cell-phone selfies with some newfound adoring fans.
“Every time I go into a tournament now I always believe I can win,” Bouchard said. “It's important to take it one match at a time, but of course, I always have big objectives.”
As the No. 6 seed, she's the highest left in the singles draw. In a week's time, she's become an even bigger favorite amongst the fans and now figures to be the favorite to win it all. With the world watching, a star is blossoming on the Family Circle Cup's main stage.
Frankie Mansfield, the sports reporter for the Moultrie News can be seen all around the state following teams to meets, games, and matches. For score updates, breaking sports news, and more follow @fjmansfield on Twitter and like Moultrie News Sports on Facebook.