PARIS – It wasn't merely that Genie Bouchard won on Sunday, it was HOW she won.
The 20-year-old Canadian, seeded No. 18, faced No. 8 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany. In 52 expedient little minutes, it was over, 6-1, 6-2, and Bouchard had moved into her first French Open quarter-final.
She will play No. 14 seed Carla Suárez Navarro, who defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3, 6-3 in their fourth-round match.
It looked, to be honest, like Bouchard was playing someone out of the top 100 who was just overmatched, – not a player who got as high as No. 5 in the world.
"I'm confident, you know, and I really believe in my skills. I believe I can play with the best girls out there. She's top 10, so I respect her. She can play some really good tennis. I was really mentally prepared for anything, for a battle," Bouchard said. "I think that mindset kind of helped me, you know, made me realize whatever happens I can deal with it on the court. ... I was just really going for my shots. That was my intention. It worked."
On the flipside of that was an opponent who, while praising Bouchard as a "great player who played very well", said she had nothing. And during the match, she couldn't find anything.
"I was not in the game. I was trying, but I had no rhythm. I don't know. I make so many mistakes. I actually was not moving very good. So, yeah, I just can say that it was not my best day today," Kerber said. "I was feeling good before, but it starts during the match. I mean, I went there and I was trying. But actually, I was not feeling the ball and I was trying to come back, but it was tough for me today."
Bouchard pounded 30 winners – 15 per set – and made just 11 unforced errors. She served 77 per cent first serves in the first set, just 42 per cent in the second set, yet still won that second nearly as easily.
That's the face of a pulverizer, which is what Bouchard did to Kerber's second serve. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
The two played last summer, in the second round at the U.S. Open, and it was close.
Nine months later, Bouchard has jumped a level or three, while Kerber has had a difficult spring on the clay. Her confidence has taken a hit. But more than anything Sunday, it was her second serve that took the biggest hit.
Bouchard warmed up for it with coach Nick Saviano who as it happens, is a lefty. "Even if he's in his 50s, he can still serve a few," Bouchard said.
As cruel as it might sound, Saviano probably still serves harder than Kerber, whose technique is inexcusably poor and who wastes her leftiness on a major part of the game she leaves vulnerable to players like Bouchard, who munch on weak second serves for a living.
Whatever "it" is, Kerber left "it" in the locker room for this match against Genie Bouchard. (AP Photo/Michel …
That's basically what happened. And once it did happen, it put pressure on Kerber's first serve, which became even more errant, thus putting even more pressure on the second serve in a vicious circle of bad serving that sealed the outcome more than anything else.
"It was one of my goals. You know, I always try to take control with the serve and the return," Bouchard said. "My goal was always to move forward. Whether it was on the serve or the next shot or the first shot after my serve, to take it early was really key. I think that helped me a lot."
By the end, Kerber was long past sensing the inevitable was about to occur. The feet stopped moving; she didn't even waste any energy with despairing looks over to her entourage. They just sat there, stone-faced, not wasting much energy of their own in even trying to urge her on. She just didn't have it. And Bouchard had it in spades.
So, just like that, the young Canadian is into the quarterfinals of her second consecutive Grand Slam, with the loss of only one set – the first set to Julia Goerges in the second round.
Facing Suárez Navarro to get to a major semifinal? Not a bad deal at all.
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