Moving forward into the court is the key to Eugenie Bouchard moving deeper into a tournament.
Bouchard ruthlessly attacked the short ball in defeating Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-3, in the semifinals of the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open, dominating with court position and robbing Wozniacki of time and space to develop points.
The secret to Bouchard's success was her willingness to attack the net, where she won an astounding 13 of 14 points, including smashing seven forehand volleys winners - all with aggressive driving, topspin technique.
The powerful volleys were the icing on the cake for the Canadian, as points were really won earlier in the rally with superior court position around the baseline.
SAP Analytics uncovered Bouchard hit an extremely aggressive 45% of her total shots inside the baseline, which will turn heads on both the men's and women's tours. Taking the ball very early with compact, powerful groundstrokes allowed Bouchard to quickly get to the net and not have to play defensive volleys below the height of the net.
By comparison, Wozniacki only hit 26 percent of her shots inside the baseline, as her game style is better suited to a grueling east-west battle with excellent speed, defense and consistency. There was not a lot Wozniacki could do against the charging Canadian, who was constantly on the front foot looking to play through her opponent.
Bouchard did all she could to avoid Wozniacki's superior backhand wing, making the Dane hit 57 percent of her groundstrokes as forehands. Wozniacki did collect five forehand winners, but her backhand is better suited to gaining control of rallies.
Wozniacki's average backhand speed for the match was 69mph - 3mph faster than her forehand. Bouchard's forehand was the strongest shot on the court, averaging 72mph, which was considerably faster than the 66mph she produced off her backhand side.
Bouchard's ability to attack with both her feet and her hands was very evident in her hard-hitting return games. Bouchard hit 90 percent (86 percent vs first serves / 100 percent vs second serves) of her returns inside the baseline, collecting two emphatic backhand return winners.
Wozniacki employed almost the opposite tactic, only hitting 35 percent (16 percent vs first serves / 73 percent vs second serves) of her returns inside the baseline. Wozniacki wanted to stay back and take a bigger cut at the ball, and her return speed was superior to Bouchard against both first serves (64mph to 63mph) and second serves (72mph to 69mph).
The dilemma for Wozniacki was the effectiveness of her slightly faster returns was negated by how far back she was hitting them from. Overall, Bouchard won 52 percent of her return points to Wozniacki's 39 percent, proving at least in this match, court position meant more than raw power.
Wozniacki actually got off to a better start in the match, winning her opening service game to love and won seven of the first nine points but failed to convert two break points in Bouchard's opening service game, which completely flipped the early momentum.
As often happens, Wozniacki was broken immediately after not taking advantage of the break points and Bouchard raced to a 4-1 lead before closing out the opening set, 6-2.
Wozniacki failed to convert break points leading 3-2 in the second set and never won another game in the match as she double faulted on break point at 3-3 and Bouchard broke at 5-3 to seal victory.
Bouchard will now face Petra Kvitova in the final, and will definitely need to gain early control of the points to ensure she is the one dictating and not defending like in their recent Wimbledon final.
Craig O'Shannessy (@BrainGameTennis) is the leading analyst for wtatennis.com throughout the 2014 season, utilizing SAP Data & Insights to uncover the patterns and percentages that dominate the game. Visit Craig's website at www.braingametennis.com for more expert strategy analysis.