Bouchard off to Australian Open quarterfinals

Eugenie Bouchard escaped a small scare at the Australian Open, winning in the fourth round over Irina-Camelia Begu and advancing to the quarterfinals.

Bouchard beat her Romanian opponent 6-1, 5-7, 6-2  on Saturday in Melbourne. The set dropped by Bouchard marks the only one she lost so far in the tourney – the first grand slam event of the 2015 season.

Facing a break point in the opening game of the first set, Bouchard reeled back Begu and soon found herself up 5-0 before the Romanian got on the board. Bouchard then closed out the set while winning 74% of her first serve points in the process.

In the second frame Begu broke Bouchard three times after the Canadian had taken a 3-0 lead. Bouchard’s first serve points dropped to the 50% range and suddenly the Romanian was up 5-3 and serving for the set. Bouchard, frustrated, regained composure and broke Begu before consolidating at 5-5. However, Begu held serve on her next game and broke Bouchard for the fourth time to win the set 7-5.

“I feel like I started really well and I wanted to keep that going,” Bouchard said in her on-court interview following the match. “(Begu) came up with a couple of good shots and my level totally dropped a little bit, and that’s really not good. I want to do better next match.”

Following the set Bouchard took a timeout and left the court. “I gave myself a long, hard look in the mirror and I said ‘Genie, this is unacceptable,’” Bouchard said laughing as she described how she scolded herself before returning for the third.

Normal service resumed in the final set for Bouchard. She broke Begu in the opening game and consolidated for a 2-0 lead. The third game saw a strong backhand return for a winner from Bouchard. She pumped her fist as if to signal that she was mentally back in the contest and the earlier lapse was a thing of the past. Bouchard broke another one of Begu’s service games to go up 5-2 and served out the match, visibly relieved to put it behind her.

“It’s not horrible playing longer on this court,” Bouchard joked, “I just wanted to do this longer for you guys,” she said drawing cheers from the crowd before singling out her fans – Genie Army – who repurposed songs normally heard in soccer stadiums to fit Bouchard.

The Canadian *could meet Russian legend Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals, if the veteran player gets through Peng Shuai of China. They are set to play later on Saturday. When asked if she’ll be watching Sharapova-Peng, Bouchard said “I’m going to get a massage and not think about tennis for a little bit,” although her coach Diego Ayala will be watching and instructing her as usual.

“No matter who I play, I’m going to be so excited and I’m going to be motivated to try play some better tennis for your guys.”

*UPDATE: Sharapova beat Peng in straight sets and will face Bouchard on Monday at approximately 8:30 p.m. ET.

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