Bouchard, Halep seek tennis Grand Slam breakthrough

AFP
Eugenie Bouchard of Canada practices her serve during previews for the US Open tennis at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 24, 2014
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Eugenie Bouchard of Canada practices her serve during previews for the US Open tennis at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 24, 2014 (AFP Photo/Julian Finney)

New York (AFP) - Eugenie Bouchard, tipped as the next superstar of women's tennis, arrives at the US Open seeking to take a year of remarkable Grand Slam success to the last level -- victory.

The 20-year-old Canadian has accomplished the rare feat of reaching at least the semi-finals of the year's first three Grand Slams.

Tall, blonde and photogenic, she has a knack for social media and a boatload of endorsements.

Her first trip to a Grand Slam final at Wimbledon resulted in a crushing defeat at the hands of Petra Kvitova.

But New Yorkers find her this week on the cover of the New York Times Magazine's US Open edition -- a marquee moment that Bouchard calls "an honor".

The fanfare surrounding seventh-seeded Bouchard is in contrast to the relatively low profile of Simona Halep, the 22-year-old Romanian who fell in the French Open final to Maria Sharapova.

Halep reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in January, and was beaten in the semi-finals by Bouchard at Wimbledon.

And with eight career titles, two of them this year, she has quietly risen to number two in the world -- aided by the injury absence of China's Li Na -- and goes into the Open seeded second behind five-time champion Serena Williams.

"I think there is a good group of us coming up," Bouchard said. "For sure, we probably motivate each other a little bit, as well.

"I think it's just so interesting to have great champions who are still playing so well but are getting older, to see them play against the young guns who are going out with nothing to lose. I think it makes very interesting tennis."

Both Halep and Bouchard have struggled in the hardcourt build-up to the Open.

Bouchard fell at the first hurdle in Montreal and Cincinnati and was humbled by Samantha Stosur in the second round at New Haven -- where defending champion Halep was ousted in her second-round opener by Magdalena Rybarikova.

"Maybe it's not the ideal lead up you want," Bouchard said. "But I don't think there is a specific way you want to lead up to a Grand Slam that's perfect, that will guarantee results.

"I am going to go in swinging from the first round," she added. "Whether I have played 10 matches or not, I still have to fight and battle, no matter what.

"That's what I'm going to do."

Halep opens her campaign on Monday, in the first match of the tournament on the 23,771-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium court.

It could be an intimidating prospect, but Halep doesn't think she'll feel the pressure of the occasion against US wildcard Danielle Rose Collins.

"I have experience everywhere now to play, so I feel prepared for everything," she said. "I have just to do my game on court."

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