When Maria Sharapova is no longer the world's highest-earning female athlete - and no sportswoman has banked more than her for the last 10 years - it will be no surprise if her mantle is taken by another ball-thumping blonde.
At 20, Eugenie Bouchard is already one of the hottest properties in tennis and she can add to her burgeoning reputation tomorrow by beating Sharapova in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.
There are many similarities between the Russian and the Canadian, including a ferociously competitive spirit. Sharapova demonstrated her never-say-die qualities by saving two match points in the second round, while Bouchard, who is attempting to reach the semi-finals in Melbourne for the second year in a row, gritted her teeth after a mid-match slump in her 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 victory yesterday over Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu.
From a set and 3-0 up, Bouchard let the second set slip away, upon which she took a bathroom break. "I gave myself a good, long hard look in the mirror," she admitted. "I said: 'Genie, this is unacceptable.' I really kind of kicked myself in the butt a little bit."
The talking-to clearly worked and now the world No 7 can prepare to take on Sharapova, who beat China's Peng Shuai 6-3, 6-0. The world No 2 appreciates Bouchard's qualities.
"She's a pretty aggressive player," Sharapova said. "She stays really close to the line. She likes to dictate the points."
Sharapova has won all three of her meetings with Bouchard, most recently in the semi-finals of last year's French Open. Recalling that match, Bouchard said: "I didn't feel like I was playing great tennis the whole time, but that's what it's about - trying to win and trying to always play better, get through it, even if you're not playing your best. But I think I've progressed a lot since then. I am going to really take it to her and go for my shots."
Simona Halep eased into the quarter-finals with her fourth successive straight-sets victory, beating Yanina Wickmayer 6-4, 6-2. The Romanian now faces Russia's Ekaterina Makarova, who beat Julia Gorges of Germany 6-3, 6-2.
"Some moments of the match you're frustrated, but it's normal," the 23-year-old Halep said.
"I have to accept my mistakes because it's normal to do some of them. I want to be perfect on court, but it's not possible. Perfect doesn't exist. So I try to keep my mind very focused for every point and to forget about the mistakes.
"I try to be better day by day, and match by match. Maybe that's why I'm a little bit nervous during my matches." (© Independent News Service)