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Sunday, January 19, 2014
Bouchard leading Canadian charge

By Matt Wilansky
ESPN.com

Apparently, the heat wave that turned Melbourne's tennis courts into a sauna is still going strong in Melbourne.

At least it is for Ana Ivanovic, who was catching fire like Jennifer Lawrence. The Serb stunned Serena Williams in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Sunday, and though you likely didn't miss that match, here are five things that may have slipped past you on Day 7 Down Under.

1. The real deal

The curse of Patricia Hy-Boulais is now over. For the first time in 22 years, a Canadian woman has reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam. That honor belongs to Eugenie Bouchard, who beat the hometown favorite Casey Dellacqua 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-0. Hy-Boulais, as you might recall, made the final eight of the 1992 US Open.

The 19-year-old Bouchard needed exactly 103 minutes to finally suppress Dellacqua. After a tight start to the match, Bouchard steamrolled the Aussie.

"Yeah, I felt the first set, it was a bit shaky," Bouchard told reporters after the match. "I feel like I still served well in the first. I made a few too many unforced errors, wasn't being aggressive enough. Then in the second and third, I really just, you know, stepped in more and really controlled the points. And that worked really well."

Eugenie Bouchard
You really want to start paying attention to the name Eugenie Bouchard.

Indeed it did. Bouchard, who was ranked No. 144 at the beginning of last year, is one of the sport's up-and-coming stars. And for all the precocious players who have made guest appearances in the later stages of Slams, she, along with Sloane Stephens, look like the ones whose success is more than a hasty stopover. Stephens, 20, could join Bouchard in the quarterfinals with a win over Victoria Azarenka on Sunday night (U.S. time).

The Canadian rising star is seven years younger than any of the three other quarterfinalists in her half of the draw. She could see her ranking climb to as high as No. 21 now that she's reached the quarterfinals.

Bouchard and Milos Raonic have sprung Canada into the tennis spotlight in the past few years. But Bouchard, with her long blond locks, engaging personality, killer smile and, not to be outdone, stout game, might soon resonate beyond the Canadian borders.

Bouchard is, after all, just three wins from a Grand Slam title. Is she surprised?

"I wouldn't say so, no," she said. "I always expect a lot from myself. Every match I go on the court believing I can win."

And next up for Bouchard is Ivanovic, who, outside the heat, made the biggest headlines of the tournament by knocking off the top-seeded Williams.

"I saw a little bit of the match, so [Ivanovic] was definitely playing really well," Bouchard said. "I'm going to look forward to a really tough battle. We're in the quarters now, so she deserves to be there. No one's going to give it to me, so it's going to be a good match."

2. Serbian tennis en fuego

Your head might be a little stuffy from watching Ivanovic single-handedly decimate everything we thought was going to happen in the women's draw. Thus we'll forgive you for missing her compatriot Novak Djokovic bury the fabulous Fabio Fognini, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic certainly seems like he's playing carefree tennis so far.

Fognini, as ESPN.com's astute Greg Garber notes, is the stylish one, a guy who looks like he could be a foil for Johnny Depp in a pirate movie. His hair is just the right balance of groomed and messy. His facial fur gives him that paradoxical bad-boy charm. With his matching light blue shirt and bandana, the swashbuckling Fognini had it all going on when he walked on the court to face Djokovic, except for one thing: his game.

Djokovic rocked the Italian in 1 hour, 33 minutes by the count of 6-3, 6-0, 6-2. If not for the ungodly temperatures early this week, Djokovic wouldn't have dropped an ounce of sweat through four rounds. Make that 12 sets played and 12 sets won for the No. 2 player in the world -- and the slight favorite to win the entire tourney.

And after that beatdown, Djokovic was asked the most important question of them all in his postmatch news conference: How about that Ivanovic win, eh?

"She put a lot of hours on the court," Djokovic told reporters. "She has a great team of people that is helping her now. She must be feeling very confident. Hopefully she's going to carry that confidence from today's win, and it's going to help her to come back to where she deserves to be, top five in the world."

And let's not forget Serbian Jelena Jankovic, the No. 8 seed, is still alive, too. She plays Simone Halep in the fourth round.

As for Djokovic, who won his 25th straight match Down Under, he hasn't been joking around at all as he looks to win his fourth straight title at the Aussie.

Check that. He's as goofy as ever. After the match, Djokovic entertained the fans with an impression of his new coach, Boris Becker. Djokovic rocked his hips back and forth, arched his back over as far as he could and took a Becker-esque rip at a serve.

"It's actually the first time after a long time I've actually done Becker imitation," Djokovic said. "I don't know how I was. Was OK? I'm going to gain few kilos and have to color my hair in order to do the proper Becker imitation."

3. Epic rematch

If you missed last year's fourth-round match between Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka, you'd better read on. Djokovic needed just over 5 hours to beat the nearly irrepressible Swiss 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 12-10 in what was undeniably the best match of 2013. Djokovic admitted afterward that Wawrinka has outplayed him, but his championship pedigree was the difference.

Well, we have really good news for you: The rematch is going to happen. Wawrinka took care of Tommy Robredo 6-3, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) on Day 7 in Melbourne. Despite a straight-setter, this one was taut from the beginning. The two exchanged brilliant one-handed backhands and moved each other around the court for 2 hours, 23 minutes.

Perhaps the difference was Wawrinka's legs. His first-round opponent, Andrey Golubev, retired down two sets in the first round, and Wawrinka never had to play his third-round match when Vasek Pospisil pulled out with a back injury. Robredo's past three encounters looked like this: 3 hours, 19 minutes against Richard Gasquet, 3 hours, 32 minutes against Julien Benneteau and another 3-hour, 32-minute battle against Lukas Rosol in his opener.

After all that, this one felt like a TKO.

4. Might want to pay attention

With Serena booted from the tourney, we can safely surmise all eyes are peering over at Azarenka. And why not? She is the two-time defending champ. And for all intents and purposes, Serena was really her only hurdle a year ago.

So might as well hand Vika the trophy now and spare us overtaxed journalists the agony of pounding on our keyboards more than we have to the next few days.

But then again, what if things don't turn out that way? Take Li Na, for instance. She's playing remarkable ball.

In a scant 59 minutes Sunday in Melbourne, she blasted through Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-0. And Makarova, who beat Venus Williams in the opener, is no pushover.

Li was actually coming off a really tough three-set win in her last match, in which she saved a match point. Li said that scare made her coach "really sad." She wanted no part of that drama against Makarova.

"Yeah, normally every match [my coach and I] will talk after the match, but you can look [at] the face," Li told reporters. "Really unhappy. Even yesterday I know if I didn't do something for sure he was so pissed.

"So, yeah, I try a lot yesterday and also today match. But at least today I think make him a little bit happier. Feel much better."

And if Li, the 2011 French open champ, truly is hell-bent on keeping her coach in a good mood, a title just might be the best answer.

5. Paragon of consistency

You can pencil it in. Actually use a pen. Better yet, how about a permanent marker? David Ferrer always finds a way to make the quarterfinals of Grand Slams. Make that nine in a row after a tough scuffle with Florian Mayer in which the Spaniard won 6-7, (5), 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 in just under three hours.

As the No. 3 player in the world, poor Ferrer garners so little love. Only one Novak Djokovic has a longer streak of final-eight appearances (20).

In a battle over 30-and-over players, Ferrer pulled away as the match went on.

"Today I was more quiet with my serve," Ferrer told reporters. "When I lost the first set, I know I was not playing bad.

"In the second set I play better. I start really good. It was not easy in one side of the court because it was windy.

"But, well, when I won the second set, it was close. In the third and the fourth, I move better, I did less mistakes, and I played with power with my shots, no?"

Yes, he sure did.