Eugenie Bouchard clashes with childhood idol Maria Sharapova in the French Open semifinals on Thursday in a match-up which ticks all the right marketing boxes for the women`s tour.
Only 2012 champion and 2013 runner-up Sharapova has tasted the atmosphere of a last-four match on Philippe Chatrier court while the trio battling her to lift the trophy on Saturday are all in uncharted territory
The 20-year-old Bouchard is also bidding to become the first Canadian woman to reach a Grand Slam final as she takes on the Russian former number one.
“I have a picture with her when I was I think seven or eight years old. I guess that would be the first time we met. I think it was in Miami,” said the bilingual blonde.
The photo shows a shy Bouchard, in a blue T-shirt and shorts, being dwarfed by a 15-year-old Sharapova who is dressed in a prim white tennis dress.
“Yeah, I mean, you know, I looked up to her for sure.” Sharapova, who has won each of the Grand Slams once, has beaten Bouchard in their two previous meetings including at Roland Garros 12 months ago.
“Someone like Eugenie who has been up and coming for a couple of years, I think this is the year where she`s really broken through, especially at the Grand Slams, playing at a high level,” said Sharapova.
“Last year was the last time that we faced against each other (Sharapova winning in straight sets in the French Open second round). It was the second round, and this year we`re in the semifinals.”
Simona Halep, the only woman left who has yet to lose a set, made short work of 2009 champion Svetlana Kusnetsova in her quarterfinal as she keeps alive her quest to become the first Romanian since her manager Virginia Ruzici in 1978 to win the French Open
The 2008 junior champion had never been past the second round in Paris until this year and is the only player on the circuit to have won a title on every surface in the past 12 months
When she came into the tournament last year in the French capital, she was ranked 57 in the world and was knocked out in the first round by Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, the 14th seed who lost to Bouchard in the quarterfinals.