MELBOURNE – Genie Bouchard has had a dream draw at this year’s Australian Open.
And so far, she’s had a dream run.
After dismissing former American junior rival Lauren Davis 6-2, 6-2 Friday in the third round, only Australian wild card Casey Dellacqua – who is having a dream week of her own – stands in the way of a quarter-final date with the great Serena Williams.
Think about it; a year ago, Bouchard lost in the qualifying rounds. Now, she's a seeded player with a serious shot at making the final eight.
Better still, Bouchard’s tennis has gotten better with each successive round.
Here's a slideshow of the best moments of Bouchard's win on Friday.
She fought off some nerves and a little bit of rust in her first official match of 2014 in the first round. She fought off an opponent in Virginie Razzano who had some very hot streaks in the second round.
Against Davis, she was pretty much flawless against a diminutive player with an impressively tireless set of legs but no weapons – especially not her first serve, which barely breaks 130 km/h.
“It was definitely hot today, the hottest I felt in any of my matches so far. I was happy to win in straight sets,” Bouchard said. “I thought I played well, tried to be aggressive, really tried to control the point. Made for quick points, as well.”
The Genie Army was out in full force again, adding some atmosphere to a far more desolate stadium than Bouchard had for her match against Razzano – a telling consequence of the four-day heat wave that finally broke Friday evening.
The key now for Bouchard’s people will be to score 10 or so good seats for the fourth-round match against Dellacqua. It will get a stadium assignment – surely Rod Laver Arena, especially now that countrywoman Samantha Stosur is out of the singles.
Even though Bouchard’s soldiers are pure Aussie fair dinkum, their loyalties have been established and with the entire stadium on Dellacqua’s side, they’ll be needed.
Efforts are being made to make that happen, and the Genie Army’s 15 minutes of good-natured fame will go on.
The crew stayed on to support Bouchard and partner Vera Dushevina later in the day for their easy 6-3, 6-1 first-round win in doubles over Valeria Solovyeva of Russia and Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
From the sound of it, the Army quickly coined a nickname for this doubles pairing as well: “Bouch and Douch”.
It was junior flashback day for Bouchard, as Svitolina was the player she easily defeated in the 2012 junior Wimbledon final.
As for Davis, well, there was history there, too.
They met here in the third round of the junior event three years ago, when Davis was the hotshot, the No. 3 seed who had won the U.S. wild-card playoff and faced Samantha Stosur in the grownups’ main draw.
Davis had come into Australia unbeaten during four months of juniors and minor-pro events and was doing a whole lot of trash talking – including boasting that she’d have no problem handling Stosur’s big kick serve because, well, she had no trouble returning the kick serve of Madison Keys (who was all of 14 at the time).
Everyone heard it. After Stosur allowed Davis just 21 points and two games in a comprehensive thrashing, Bouchard, then ranked No. 21 in the juniors and seeded No. 14, took it upon herself to do the same in a 6-0, 6-3 win.
“I knew about ending her four-month winning streak. I was like, 'She's going down'," Bouchard told me afterwards, a big smile on her face. "I read about (the big talk) and I needed to knock some sense into her. She was being cocky before her other match."
Bouchard is a lot more careful about what she says now (which is a bit of a shame, but you can understand why, with so much more at stake).
But what she did three years ago, she pretty much did again on Friday against an opponent who doesn’t do nearly as much trash talking these days.
Bouchard then headed to the studio of big American network ESPN, which is televising the Australian Open in the U.S., and put on a near-perfect performance there as well.
And the Genie Army got their props across America.
We’ll see on Sunday what they can do in a stadium full of Aussie supporters.