TOKYO, Japan - Venus Williams has achieved a lot in her many years on the WTA, but she scored another first for herself on Thursday - reaching the first Toray Pan Pacific Open semifinal of her career.
In a quarterfinal battle between unseeded players - Williams beat No.2 seed Victoria Azarenka and No.13 seed Simona Halep, Bouchard No.9 seed Sloane Stephens and No.6 seed Jelena Jankovic - there were fireworks right away, as Bouchard built a 3-1 lead. The crowd knew they had a match.
For three hours and two minutes the two traded huge groundstrokes and ran everything they could down, but Williams was just a little more aggressive, her first serve was just a little more dangerous, and her net play was just a little bit sharper - the American edged the Canadian in the end, 63 67(4) 63.
"Wow, she played so well, she's going to be a great player - she already is a great player," Williams said in her on-court interview. "I was just competing out there today, just fighting until the end. It was disappointing to lose the second set, but to win the third set is the goal, so I'm happy I did that."
Williams and Bouchard had comparable unforced errors in the match, 35 for Williams and 34 for Bouchard, but their winners told the story - Williams had a whopping 43 in the match, Bouchard 28.
This is the first time Williams has reached the semifinals of the Toray Pan Pacific Open - her previous best result was the quarterfinals in 2004. And in fact it's the first time a Williams sister has reached the semifinals at this tournament at all - Serena Williams has never actually played this tournament.
But big sister doesn't want to stop in the quarters. "I'm in the semifinals - I'm so excited, my first semifinal here in Tokyo after all these years! It's hard to believe it's the first time, but I'm glad it's now.
"But my hopes are to win tomorrow. Hopefully it'll be a win - and in less time, that's my goal."
Bouchard talked about the match - and her respect for Williams - afterwards in her post-match presser.
"I'm always disappointed to lose - I played some good matches here, but I always want to do better," Bouchard said. "I don't think I played as well as I can, but obviously Venus is a great player and she put a lot of pressure on me throughout the whole match. I never really felt in control on the court.
"I watched her when I was younger. She's a legend and a really great player. So I was really excited to play against her - but I didn't take my chances enough, and against a player like Venus you need to."
Williams' semifinal foe was undetermined when she won - Petra Kvitova and Svetlana Kuznetsova were resting up after finishing rain-delayed third round matches earlier in the day, with the No.7-seeded Kvitova firing seven aces during a 62 62 win over Madison Keys, and Kuznetsova rallying from 5-2 down in the first set - and saving a set point down 6-5 - to beat No.15 seed Sorana Cirstea, 76(3) 61.
Kvitova ended up beating Kuznetsova, winning eight of nine games from 4-all to win, 64 61. The Czech is now through to her second semifinal at this event (she fell to Vera Zvonareva in the 2011 semifinals).