Eugenie Bouchard's dream run at the Australian Open is over
Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, right, wipes the sweat from her face as she plays Li Na of China during their semifinal at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
Justin Bergman, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, January 23, 2014 7:13AM EST
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Not even The Bieb could help Eugenie Bouchard at the Australian Open on Thursday.
The 19-year-old Montreal native, who received a tweet from fellow Canadian Justin Bieber wishing her luck before her semifinal match, started slowly against two-time finalist Li Na and was out-hit down the stretch in a 6-2, 6-4 defeat.
Bouchard could have been expected to be nervous playing in her first slam semifinal at such a young age. But she said after the match she expected more from herself.
"I'm never satisfied with losing," she said. "I always want to go further and do better."
The consolation might have been the tweet from Bieber, whom she bashfully admitted in an on-court interview a few days previously that she'd like to take out on a date.
"I was excited," she said of the tweet, one of few times she smiled in her post-match news conference.
Bouchard is a rising star in the women's game -- she was the Newcomer of the Year on the WTA Tour in 2013 after making her first tournament final and rising from No. 144 in the rankings to No. 32. She's expected to crack the top 20 next week.
But she really caused the tennis world to take notice with her run at Melbourne Park.
Li heaped praise on the Canadian teenager after their semifinal. "I think maybe she will be best player in the world," she said.
Former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, who lost to Bouchard in the quarterfinals, also predicted the teenager would have a bright future.
"She's definitely brave. She's young. She has nothing to lose," Ivanovic said.
All Bouchard needs now is more experience playing in big occasions like the latter stages of a major. This much was evident when she went down 5-0 in the first set after just 14 minutes as the spectators were still finding their seats.
"I try to think of it as just a normal match, but it feels bigger," she said. "It makes it more important to stay focused. I came out and I wasn't quite playing very well."
Bouchard's loss means her personal cheering section -- a group of mostly male Melburnians called the "Genie Army" who have serenaded her during all of her matches -- will have to wait until next year to see her again.
After each win at the Australian Open this week, the "Genie Army" has given her a different stuffed animal as a gift -- a kangaroo, kookaburra, wombat and a koala. Her supporters added another animal to her collection Thursday, which she brought to her news conference.
"It's an emu," Bouchard said. "Her name is Sheila."
A fitting reminder of her time in Australia, to be sure.