Canadian teen Bouchard sends Ivanovic packing

TENNIS

Less than a month out from the Sochi Winter Olympics, teenage tennis sensation Eugenie Bouchard may just have achieved Canadian sport's equivalent of Mission: Impossible - dragging attention away from the fortunes of the national ice hockey team.

Bouchard's upset 5-7 7-5 6-2 win over Ana Ivanovic in the Australian Open quarter-finals marked the first time in three decades a Canadian woman had progressed to the last four at a grand slam event.

She follows in the footsteps of Carling Bassett, another Canadian pin-up girl whose career highlight came at age 16 when she reached the last four at the 1984 US Open, only to run headlong into 18-time major winner Chris Evert.

Bassett retired early from tennis and went on to work as a fashion model while dabbling in acting.

The early signs are that Bouchard - the 2012 junior Wimbledon champion - will go on to enjoy a much more successful tennis career than Bassett, who was dubbed Darling Carling.

The pair never met but Bouchard said she was aware of Bassett's achievements.

"I know she was obviously the best female Canadian player ever," she said.

Bouchard admitted yesterday she was a terrible ice skater but was hopeful this win would lift her sport's profile in the hockey-obsessed nation.

"Hopefully they'll care a little bit more about tennis now," she said.

"It's definitely not the most popular sport there. but I think it's growing. I think it's getting better."

The 19-year-old Bouchard showed her age when she listed Justin Bieber as her dream date and is collecting an impressive collection of stuffed animals from her self-styled Melbourne fan club the Genie Army - a wombat was added to the stash after her quarter-finals triumph.

The victory set up a semi-finals showdown with Australian Open specialist Li Na, 12 years her senior.

Li, a two-time finalist at Melbourne Park and the 2011 French Open champion, performed a 6-2 6-2 demolition job on fellow 31-year-old Flavia Pennetta from Italy.

"She's still at the top of her game and it will be tough and she's been in a lot more situations like this than me," Bouchard said.

"I think I've been doing well this week handling big moments on the court."

Some of those came late in the second set against Ivanovic on yesterday, when the Serb twice sought medical treatment.

Bouchard kept her focus and ran away with the match in the final set.

"I got more aggressive," said Bouchard.

"When the ball's in the middle of the court, I 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 aggressiveness."

Ivanovic blew the tournament wide open with her third-round win over world No 1 Serena Williams.

Backing up yesterday, the No 14 seed felt flat but was still happy to have advanced to the last eight at a major for only the second time since 2008, the year of her sole grand slam triumph at the French Open.

"If at the beginning of the summer someone had told me this would have been the outcome of it, I would have agreed to it," Ivanovic said.

"I've had some really good wins, some emotional wins and a lot of positive things have come out of it.

"Obviously it's very disappointing the way it ended, but on a positive note I played maybe the best tennis of my life." - AAP

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