MELBOURNE, Australia — Eugenie Bouchard reached the semifinals in her first trip to the Australian Open, beating 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 early this morning to set up a showdown with fourth-seeded Li Na.
The result means two-time Australian Open finalist Li, who beat Flavia Pennetta 6-2, 6-2 in an earlier quarterfinal featuring two women who'll turn 32 next month, will have to face a teenager for the third time in the tournament.
Bouchard, 19, the first Canadian to reach the Australian semifinals, played with composure against former No. 1-ranked Ivanovic, who started the season with a title at Auckland, New Zealand, and produced a major upset to eliminate top-ranked Serena Williams in the fourth round here.
Bouchard went to the net 24 times and won 19 of those points. She broke Ivanovic's serve seven times, including the last game, and had to sit through a long timeout when she was trailing 4-3 in the second set while her opponent received treatment.
The WTA Tour's newcomer of the year in 2013, Bouchard is playing just her fourth Grand Slam tournament, having lost in the second rounds at the French Open and U.S. Open last year and reached the third round at Wimbledon, the only previous major where she'd managed back-to-back victories. The second of those was against Ivanovic, in straight sets — their only previous meeting.
Bouchard, from Montreal, has a growing group of supporters at Melbourne Park. After each match, fans have presented her with a different stuffed, fluffy Australian animal. She now has a kangaroo, a kookaburra and a wombat in her collection.
Li is also a crowd favorite in Australia, where she lost the finals last year to Victoria Azarenka and in 2011 to Kim Clijsters and has reached the semifinals four times in the past five years. Azarenka, the two-time defending champion, is in the other half of the draw.
Li won her only previous match against Bouchard in straight sets at Montreal in 2012.
"We had a tough battle last time, and I think I didn't have a lot of experience back then," Bouchard said. This time I think I'll be ready."
Li beat two 16-year-olds in the opening rounds and had to save a match point against Lucie Safarova in the third. Against No. 28 Pennetta, she was relentless, keeping the mistakes down while going for her winners.
"After saving the match point, I think I got a lot of confidence," Li said of her close call in the third round. "Even more belief in myself."
Li lost her serve just once and finished off the 67-minute match with an easy forehand to the open court.