CHARLESTON, SC, USA - It was the third round match-up everyone was hoping for when the draw was made, and it certainly lived up to the hype - Eugenie Bouchard outlasted Venus Williams in a center court thriller on Thursday afternoon to return to the Family Circle Cup quarterfinals, 76(6) 26 64.
The two had met once before and it was as close as could be, Williams winning that one in Tokyo last year - and this one was no different, with the two playing over two hours in hot, windy conditions.
Looking back, the most critical point of the match could have come in the first set - Williams actually had double set point at 6-4 in the tie-break, Bouchard reeling off four points in a row from there to sneak out the set. The No.11-seeded Williams rebounded well, racing through the second set and going up an early break in the third at 2-1, but she paid the price for a few costly errors while serving to stay in the match at 4-5 and the No.6-seeded Bouchard capitalized and just snuck out the win.
While Williams' overall match numbers were better than Bouchard's - an even differential of 39 winners to 39 unforced errors compared to a -5 differential of 26 to 31 - it was at the very end of the first and third sets where the American let a few more points slip away while the Canadian was too solid.
Bouchard reached her first Premier-level quarterfinal here a year ago and now repeats the feat.
"In the second set she really started going for her shots. I just tried to keep fighting," Bouchard said in her on-court interview with ESPN's Pam Shriver. "It's always fun for me to play against such a great champion like Venus. She's still playing at such a high level and it was such a battle out there."
"She played a lot more consistently than I did," Williams said in her post-match presser. "I think my errors really hurt me a lot today, just a lot of up and down, a lot of errors. In the first set I kind of came from behind the whole set and then got into a position to win the set, and she was playing tough and staying in the points, and I started making the unforced errors again, which really didn't help."
Elsewhere, Daniela Hantuchova and Jana Cepelova set up an intriguing all-Slovak quarterfinal, with the No.12-seeded Hantuchova cruising past Teliana Pereira, 62 63, and Cepelova rallying from a break down in the third to win a two-hour, 42-minute grinder against No.13 seed Elena Vesnina, 76(4) 36 63.
Cepelova, who stunned Serena Williams this week, is now into her first Premier-level quarterfinal.
Hantuchova and Cepelova will be playing against each other for the first time.
Another early winner was No.3 seed Sara Errani, who squeaked past Peng Shuai, 76(6) 76(5). Errani was a point away from losing both sets - Peng had a set point up 6-5 in each set but couldn't convert.
"It was an unbelievable match," Errani said. "All the games were very close, and she had set point in the first and second sets. She was playing very well; I think I was too. It was a very good match."