First meetings on the tennis court are a little like first dates: first you have to get to know each other, and then you have to figure out if you're compatible.
It turns out Canadian Eugenie Bouchard likes U.S. Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki just fine.
The 20-year-old from Montreal took care of the former No. 1 from Denmark routinely – easily, even – in a 6-2, 6-3 victory that puts her in her first Premier-level final on the WTA Tour.
Her opponent in the final will be none other than Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, who defeated Elina Svitolina 6-3, 7-5 in the other singles semi-final and who routed Bouchard in the Wimbledon final last July.
Wozniacki, who had as good a summer as anyone on the North American hard courts, was hampered by a right hamstring that resulted in her upper thigh being taped. She has played a lot more tennis than Bouchard the last few months – including a trip to the final in Tokyo last week, where she lost to Ana Ivanovic. And while Bouchard was enjoying some downtime in New York during the second week of the U.S. Open after her fourth-round loss, Wozniacki was busy fighting her way to the final.
But none of that can take away from the fact that Bouchard, when she's on her game, is death to the counter-punchers out on Tour. And Friday night in Wuhan, she was.
The Canadian served at 71 percent. She converted five of nine break point opportunities, hit 28 winners to 20 unforced errors, and was 13-for-14 at the net.
For a player who has never faced her before, she poses a problem: Bouchard's tactic is to take the ball as early as she can and hit it aggressively. When Wozniacki has time, she can work her magic; when she's robbed of time, it's far more difficult for her to produce the depth of shot required to keep Bouchard from stepping in even more. Given she was at less than 100 per cent and her opponent was a lot fresher, it was an uphill battle for Wozniacki all the day.
She did try to step it up; Wozniacki had 18 winners (and 18 unforced errors) on the day, statistics that would be considered unusually aggressive for the 24-year-old Dane.
Neither seemed to have an issue dealing with the other's serve. But Bouchard did a better job against Wozniacki's serve and a better job taking care of her own – especially in the second set.
The difference came down to opportunities; Wozniacki had seven break points against Bouchard's serve, but was only able to convert once. And while she only had two double-faults in the match, both were costly. The first one gave Bouchard the definitive break to go up 4-3 in the second set (Wozniacki had just saved two break points on her way to digging out of a love-40 hole). The second came at 15-all in the last game of the match, setting Bouchard on her way to breaking serve to put the match away.
Now comes a bigger challenge.
The last time she faced Kvitova was in the Wimbledon final. And everyone – especially Bouchard fans – remembers what happened there. It was one-way traffic for the Czech.
Kvitova has looked relaxed and on form in Wuhan this week, despite the hot and humid conditions that typically give her all kinds of trouble.
The match is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wuhan time (3 a.m. EDT) on Saturday. Bouchard has played three of her four matches so far in the evening, when the conditions are a little less onerous. Kvitova played her first match at night, but her last three have come in the afternoon.