Eugenie Bouchard will be seeking her first WTA title when she takes on Karolina Pliskova in the final of the NÜRNBERGER VERSICHERUNGSCUP. The second-seeded Bouchard saved all four break points on her serve and won 28 of 33 first serve points in her 6-4, 6-3 semifinal defeat of Karin Knapp on Friday. The 19th-ranked Canadian will contest her second WTA final, having lost to Samantha Stosur in the Osaka final last October.
"She was playing really well," Bouchard said of Knapp. "I know she's capable of playing even better. It was a very solid match for me." As for Pliskova, a day after recording her first Top 10 win over World No.9 Angelique Kerber, the Czech reeled off 10 consecutive games from a set and a break down en route to a 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over No.4 seed Elina Svitolina.
The one previous match-up between Bouchard and Pliskova was a thriller, with Bouchard pulling out a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 triumph in the first round of the US Open last year. "It was a really tough match at the US Open," Bouchard said. "She has a strong game and can play really well. I'm going to be prepared for that but am going to focus on my side of the net and what I need to do. I need to play my game. I improved from yesterday to today, which I'm happy about, but I want to do even better tomorrow."
In a perfect confidence boost going into the second Grand Slam tournament of the year, WTA rising star Eugenie Bouchard won the first WTA title of her career, overcoming the big-serving Karolina Pliskova to conquer the NÜRNBERGER VERSICHERUNGSCUP in Nürnberg.
Bouchard has been piling up the accomplishments since last year, her greatest result being, of course, her run to the semifinals of the Australian Open, which wasn't only her first Grand Slam semifinal - it was just the second time ever that a Canadian had reached a Grand Slam semifinal, after Carling Bassett-Seguso did it at the US Open back in 1984. After Australia, Bouchard broke the Top 20 - just the third Canadian woman ever to reach the Top 20, after Bassett-Seguso and Helen Kelesi.
There was actually one very big turning point in the match - leading 6-2, 4-2, Bouchard looked headed for a routine straight set victory, but Pliskova reeled off four games in a row to snatch the second set right from under her. But the No.1-seeded Bouchard regrouped very well in the third, never falling behind to close out the unseeded Czech in three sets in an hour and 53 minutes, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.
"Today it was important to just keep at it," Bouchard said. "She's a great player, and she can be very dangerous at times, so I'm really glad I stayed with it and kept fighting for it during the third set. "This is kind of like a stepping stone for me. Winning a WTA title is of course a goal I've had, and I'm so happy to accomplish it, but I still want to achieve more - more titles, bigger titles - so this is a step in the right direction, and it's part of the dream, but I want to move forward and keep going from here. I love Nürnberg. This city will always be special to me because it's where I won my first title."
American Serena Williams continued to hold a firm grip on the world's no. 1 spot as the year's second major gets underway in Paris on Sunday. Williams has a lead of more than 4,000 points over no. 2 Li Na heading into the French Open which she won last year.
There are no changes in the top 10 this week. Nurnberg champion Eugenie Bouchard climbs three spots to no. 16 while Strasbourg champion Monica Puig climbs 15 spots to no. 41 - both career highs for the 20-year-olds.
Czech Karolina Pliskova, who lost to Bouchard in the final on Saturday, climbs 11 spots to no. 53 - also a career-high and Strasbourg finalist Silvia Soler-Espinosa climbs 33 spots to no. 85.
1 (1) WILLIAMS, SERENA USA 11590 17 2000 185 1 2 (2) LI, NA CHN 7540 15 100 3 (3) RADWANSKA, AGNIESZKA POL 6360 22 500 190 120 4 (4) HALEP, SIMONA ROU 5140 23 5 280 125 5 (5) AZARENKA, VICTORIA BLR 4741 15 900 6 (6) KVITOVA, PETRA CZE 4600 20 160 120 60 7 (7) JANKOVIC, JELENA SRB 4255 22 500 130 125 8 (8) SHARAPOVA, MARIA RUS 4141 16 1400 1 9 (9) KERBER, ANGELIQUE GER 3870 24 60 280 100 70 10 (10) CIBULKOVA, DOMINIKA SVK 3705 23 100 70 1 11 (11) ERRANI, SARA ITA 3590 22 900 125 100 12 (12) IVANOVIC, ANA SRB 3455 22 280 145 125 13 (13) PENNETTA, FLAVIA ITA 3259 22 5 1 1 14 (14) WOZNIACKI, CAROLINE DEN 2790 18 100 55 1 15 (15) SUAREZ NAVARRO, CARLA ESP 2785 25 280 100 100 16 (19) BOUCHARD, EUGENIE CAN 2640 26 280 114 60 60 17 (17) LISICKI, SABINE GER 2556 19 160 30 1 18 (20) STOSUR, SAMANTHA AUS 2485 23 160 110 105 19 (16) STEPHENS, SLOANE USA 2481 21 1 280 1 1 20 (18) VINCI, ROBERTA ITA 2420 25 280 30 30
Much has been made of the “ageing” of the women’s Tour in recent times. Teen phenoms are an ever rarer breed. Players are blooming later than before, and enjoying longer careers. Suddenly, turning 30 doesn’t signal that a player is over the hill; rather, it could be when she wins her first Slam.
Her 6-1, 6-2 beat-down of eighth seed Angelique Kerber on Sunday was jaw-droppingly good. In just 52 minutes she slammed 30 winners to 12 and limited her unforced errors to a tidy 11, wowing a Philippe Chatrier Court crowd who had barely taken their seats. "I'm confident and I really believe in my skills. I believe I can play with the best girls out there. She's top 10, so I respect her. She can play some really good tennis. I was really mentally prepared for anything, for a battle. I think that mindset kind of helped me realise whatever happens I can deal with it on the court," Bouchard reflected. "I was just really going for my shots. That was my intention. It worked."
Bouchard had never been beyond the second round in Paris – Kerber was a quarter-finalist in 2012 – yet seemed unfazed by the gigantic Chatrier show court, never allowing the German to settle into the rallying-and-retrieving patterns on which she thrives. Time and time again, Kerber was beaten with penetrating off-forehands, and controlled most of the rallies from the centre of the court.
Kerber certainly was not helping her own cause. Despite her experience, she never seemed to attempt a tactical change, or take the time to slow down the play and gather herself. She rushed through her service games at warp speed, almost as if she wanted to get off the court. A dreadful fifth game in the second set saw her throw in two double faults, get called for a foot fault, and spray a pair of errors; it gave Bouchard an unassailable lead.