Coup for Hong Kong as Eugenie Bouchard signs up for new event
Fastest rising star in women's tennis to play at new WTA International Series event at Victoria Park
Canadian hotshot Eugenie Bouchard, who is taking the French Open by storm, will play at the inaugural Hong Kong Tennis Open in September.
Bouchard will be a key figure in plans by organisers to make the tournament “the most glamorous and prestigious” WTA International Series event on the calendar.
The 20-year-old from Montreal, who is ranked 16 in the world, reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January and has stormed into the semi-finals of the French Open after beating Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-5 in the quarter-finals on Tuesday night.
In the other quarter-final, Russian Maria Sharapova again showed her resilience when she recovered from a poor start to down up-and-coming Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 1-6, 7-5, 6-1.
The 2012 champion and last year's runner-up lost the first four games as Sharapova conceded the first set before regaining her composure.
Sharapova now faces Bouchard in the semi-final.
“It is a big coup getting her,” said a delighted Herbert Chow Siu-lung, president of the Hong Kong Tennis Association.
“Eugenie embodies the type of player we hope our juniors can emulate, having successfully made the transition from junior tennis to the top level.
“She was a world junior number two in 2011, but while some top juniors fade away, she has made the progression to senior tennis and is a success story which I hope our youngsters can learn from.
"The Hong Kong Tennis Open marks the first time professional tennis is returning to Hong Kong’s shores in 12 years,” said Chow.
Bouchard’s meteoric rise continued on Sunday when she demolished Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-2 to claim a quarter-final spot at Roland Garros.
“Since the beginning of the year I have been improving my game – since Australia I’m at a different level,” said Quebec-native Bouchard, who claimed her first WTA title the previous week in Nuremberg.
“I have been feeling that way in practice and in matches. Even if it’s not always there, I know that I can really play at a good level.
“I have confidence in myself. I can play like this and play even better.”
Bouchard explained how she was dealing with the world of professional tennis just two years after she won the girls’ junior title at Wimbledon.
“Best friend on tour? – I don’t have one,” she said. “I don’t think the tennis tour is the place to have friends. For me, it’s all competition."
Bouchard’s no-nonsense approach to tennis appears to be working well as she was named WTA newcomer of the year for 2013.
“It was important playing on the junior tour until the age of 18, because I played all the grand slams in juniors and I played on big courts,” she said.
“I experienced pressure and I think it helped me being on the court when everyone thinks you should win.
“That was difficult, but it helped me be strong. So that’s why I managed to play well in the professionals, because I had experience.”
Bouchard says she intends to go all the way in Paris, because the usual career span of a tennis pro is not that long.
“I’m not all that young. I feel very old. I think I’m starting to get wrinkles on my face. Do I have some? Yes? Okay, so I just turned 20 three months ago and I feel old.
“So I want to be the best player I can be as quickly as possible, because one day I will wake up and I will be 30!”
Organisers are also chasing former world No 1 Martina Hingis for the Victoria Park showpiece, which will feature a 32-strong singles draw and a 16-strong doubles event.
China's number two, the world's number one doubles player Peng Shuai, has already signed up, while her doubles partner from Taiwan, Hsieh Su-wei, will also play.
On Tuesday night, top seeded pair Peng and Hsieh beat fifth seeds Zimbabwean Cara Black and Sania Mirza of India 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in their quarter-finals match in Paris.
Last night, Serb Novak Djokovic had to work hard to reach the semi-finals at Roland Garros, toiling to a 7-5, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 victory over Milos Raonic in their quarter-final match.
Additional reporting by Reuters, Agence France-Presse