Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard will bid for a first ever appearance in a Grand Slam final when she takes on childhood idol Maria Sharapova in the French Open semi-finals on Thursday.
The 20-year-old from Montreal, who is the first Canadian woman to make the semi-finals in Paris, admits she used to look up to her Russian opponent.
“I have a picture with her when I was I think seven or eight years old. I guess that would be the first time (they met). I think it was in Miami,” said the bilingual blonde about the photo which has been circulating on social media.
The photo shows a shy Bouchard, in a blue T-shirt and shorts, being dwarfed by a 15-year-old Sharapova who is dressed in a prim white tennis dress.
“Yeah, I mean, you know, I looked up to her for sure.”
Sharapova, the 2012 champion who has won each of the Grand Slams once, has beaten Bouchard in their two meetings including at Roland Garros 12 months ago.
She came back from a set down to defeat Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 1-6, 7-5, 6-1 and reach the last four.
Bouchard is the only woman to reach the last four of both majors this season, after losing to Li Na in the Australian Open semi-finals in straight sets.
The only other Canadian to reach a Grand Slam semi-final was Carling Bassett at the US Open in 1984.
“Someone like Eugenie who has been up and coming for a couple of years, I think this is the year where she’s really broken through, especially at the Grand Slams, playing at a high level,” said Sharapova.
“Last year was the last time that we faced against each other (Sharapova winning in straight sets in French Open second round). It was the second round, and this year we’re in the semifinals.
Sharapova won their only other meeting, in Miami, 6-2, 6-0, in 2013.
“It’s a great stage to be at for both of us,” added Sharapova.
Bouchard, who won her first WTA tournament at Nuremberg on the eve of Roland Garros, says she will not be intimidated by the prospect of facing the former world number one.
“It’s very exciting for me to play against such a champion. It’s going to be a good battle on the court and I think that this is what I should expect in a Grand Slam semifinal, to play against such players.
“She was number one in the world and she’s won several Grand Slams, so it’s going to be a great experience for me.
“You know, I will try and put out my best type of tennis. I’ll put up a good fight on the court, and we’ll see what happens.”
The remaining women’s quarter-finals take place on Wednesday when fourth seed Simona Halep of Romania takes on 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia while 2012 finalist Sara Errani of Italy faces Germany’s 28th seed Andrea Petkovic.