Mother Nature intervened (on more than one occasion at the Internationaux de Strasbourg on Wednesday), and did its best to delay and frustrate fans and players alike, on quarter finals day.
Amidst the backdrop of the European Parliament, crowds gathered to see the eight WTA players who made it through to the last four of the Internationaux de Strasbourg yesterday. Lacking a significant French presence as a result of a shock first round exit for Marion Bartoli and a pre tournament withdrawal from Pauline Parmentier, it was left to Alizé Cornet to fly the French tricolour in the last eight; doing so efficiently through two rain delays to progress to the semi finals 6-3, 6-1.
Elsewhere, former Junior Wimbledon champion, and rising Canadian star Eugénie Bouchard made the headlines once again, this time booking a semi final spot with a comfortable win over Georgia’s error strewn Anna Tatishvili, 6-3, 6-1.
Quarter final 1 – Eugénie Bouchard (CAN) vs Anna Tatishvili (GEO)
The rain was a constant threat ever since the players woke up in Strasbourg, and there was no real sign that it would completely disappear. Sprinkling as the players took to the court was probably the best they were going to get. Bouchard started well, comfortably holding her first service game to love. Tatishvili hardly got a return in during the opening game, the Georgian trying to feel the conditions before risking anything. Tatishvili would serve next, but it wasn’t long before the first break. Bouchard was all over the Georgian’s serve, firing back returns that the 101st seed just could not handle. 2-0 it was and Bouchard looked very solid.
Bouchard, ranked 91st in the world, looked more agile and tactful early on. Coming into the net when possible and being aggressive from the baseline, she took an ominous 3-0 lead. However, Tatishvili was beginning to show signs of recovery, posting her first service game in game 4, before cleverly breaking back with some powerful ground strokes for 3-2.
Before we knew it, it was all square again at 3-3, but this was just the motivation Bouchard needed to break in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead. All that was needed now was for the Canadian to serve out the set. She did just that, after two deuces and some wayward forehands from Tatishvili; first set to Bouchard, 6-3.
The second set was to be much more one sided, Bouchard asserting her dominance and not allowing Tatishvili back into the match. For the Georgian, it was very much a repeat of the first set, except, in trying to fight back, she became more frustrated and more errors crept into her game. Producing 15 unforced errors coupled with a first serve that just wouldn’t go in, she became crippled by her Canadian opponent, who broke three times to take a 5-0 lead in the blink of an eye. Despite despairing looks to her box, Tatishvili managed to get on the board in the sixth game, but Bouchard served out the final game, and won the match with a dainty dropshot, much to the delight of the French crowd.
Quarter final 2 – Alizé Cornet (FRA) vs Channelle Scheepers (RSA)
The second quarter final of the day was a higher quality match than the first, with the two players being much higher ranked in the WTA standings. Over lunch, the rain had come down substantially, and the dark clouds were hanging ominously. It was almost a redundant fact that there would be interruptions at some point. It became chilly as well, and even in the warm up, the ball looked heavy, making it a different type of game.
In stark contrast to the first quarter final, it was a frenetic start to the encounter with both Cornet and Scheepers visibly striking the ball harder. Cornet, perhaps a bit slow to get into the match then found herself 15-40 down in her first service game. An optimistic shot down the line went wide and Scheepers broke in the opening game. In her opening service game, the South African sprang out of the blocks and looked the more solid, taking the opening game, despite some aggressive counter punching from the Frenchwoman.
Cornet, however managed to settle down and regroup. She opened her account in the third game, with a nice one-two, wrong footing Scheepers. The next game was tight and Scheepers was suddenly beginning to look a bit uneasy, as Cornet was finally getting firmly into her stride. A series of dropshots followed by a powerful passing shot from Cornet forced the break and the two were level again at 2-2.
Which is where, regrettably but not unpredictably the rain brought an end to processions, at least temporarily. 17 minutes played with the scores tied; it was another hour before play resumed. Once play did resume, Cornet continued to press on and not let up as she broke the South African’s serve in the eighth game. Poor shot choice from Scheepers gave Cornet plenty of free points, but it was bad luck that produced the best point of the set. Powerful groundstrokes were the start of an exciting and prolonged rally, with neither giving an inch. With both players scrambling in defence, Cornet took advantage of a lucky net cord ball to put away an easy winner.
The errors started to appear more prominently in Scheepers’ game and Cornet took advantage with consummate ease, taking the first set 6-3. Unfortunately, the action would stop there once more, as the rain returned, this time stopping play for more than ninety minutes. Not that it changed much with regards to the match. The start of the second set began in much the same vane as the first, with Cornet struggling to hold serve. She did eventually. Showing good point construction and court positioning, Cornet raced into a 5-0 lead and despite losing her serve and enduring another pesky rain delay, completed a comfortable 6-3 6-1 victory.