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Bouchard reacts to make another big bang at SW19

SHE wears a kimono at a press conference, she is famed for her love of cuddly toys and she has the high-profile friend in the top US comedy show.

Hitting stride: Eugenie Bouchard proved she can handle pressure during the second set against Alize Cornet. Picture: PA
Hitting stride: Eugenie Bouchard proved she can handle pressure during the second set against Alize Cornet. Picture: PA

She smiles like an angel but she plays with more than a little bit of the devil. Young, blonde and beautiful, she has marketing people frothing in the manner of a dog who has not taken his rabies shot.

She looks tender. She is not.

The softest thing about Eugenie Bouchard is her teeth. This is a compliment.

The 20-year-old Canadian could meet Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon with the Russian still to start her match with Angelique Kerber. It would be an apposite match. Bouchard is Sharapova lite.

The lite refers to Bouchard's lack of a grand slam, whereas the 27-year-old Russian has five. Bouchard, though, has reached the semi-finals of the two grand slams played already this season. Wimbledon now offers her a chance to do the same on grass as she did on the hard court of Melbourne and the clay of Roland Garros.

Her resemblance to Sharapova is not restricted to the way she has been shaped as a media star. Sharapova is tough on court and oblivious to her level of popularity in the locker room off it.

The knowledgeable observers whisper that Bouchard has the same combination. Certainly, her attitude on court is uncompromising. Watched by Jim Parsons of the Big Bang Theory, Bouchard yesterday made a substantial impact on Centre Court.

Facing Alize Cornet, the 24-year-old Frenchwoman who defeated Serena Williams on Saturday, Bouchard was relentless in her pursuit of victory, winning 7-6 (5), 7-5.

This was the sort of contest that could go either way. Bouchard tilted it in her favour with a mixture of solid technique and defiance. It was all quietly impressive.

She was "proud" of the way she battled in the tie break but her resurgence in the second set, after going a break behind, was indicative of a player who will not fold under pressure.

"I've been in situations like that before, so I had full belief in myself that I wasn't out. The second set wasn't over yet. I was able to step up on the important moments," she said with no air of boasting, just someone pointing out the obvious.

"We played some good tennis today. We had some tough points," said the world No.13. "She has good wheels. It made for some really tough, physical points. So that's definitely the most physical match I've played this tournament. But I'm proud that I really, really fought till the end. She's a good fighter, too. We were really just battling. "

Bouchard has a toughness that extends beyond the physical and she knows it. "My mental side of tennis has improved over the last few years. Tennis is very mental, so that's an important part of it," she said. Asked if she had a mental coach, she said: "I am not going to give away my secrets."

But she said she had learned much in a limited period. Her first full year showed her how different the WTA tour was to the juniors. "I really felt a difference in the level of how tough it was with my opponents," said Bouchard, who is from Montreal.

"Week in, week out, I was playing girls top 100, top 50, sometimes really good ones. I just saw how tough it was to do that all year long. I played a lot of tournaments last year. Just having that experience, just playing week in, week out against a different level than what I was used to, really just opened my eyes. Just by playing so many matches, big matches for me at the time, helped me."

Bouchard, who has won one tournament this year in Nurnburg, said: "I've learned a lot. The main thing is the confidence I've added since the beginning of the year. I've proved to myself I can play on the big stage as well. I've played on centre courts of most of the slams, big moments, big matches. I'm proud of the way I can handle it out there."

She is joined in the last eight by Petra Kvitova, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic and Ekaterina Makarova of Russia. Simona Halep, Sabine Lisicki and Sharapova will be favourites to progress to the quarter-finals.

The women's competition is proving to be full of intrigue. A meeting between princess Eugenie and the Ice Queen of Sharapova would merely increase the fascination that surrounds the destination of the Venus Rosewater Dish.

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