Two years after becoming Wimbledon’s junior champion, Eugenie Bouchard of Canada is one match away from taking the giant leap and capturing the grown-up top prize, the Ladies’ Singles crown.
Another display of tennis which was as aggressive as it was impressive by the No.13 seed saw off Romania’s Simona Halep – the No.3 seed and runner-up at the recent French Open – 7-6, 6-2 in one hour 34 minutes.
So Bouchard has now gone six matches at the 2014 Championships without dropping a set, while Halep was always fighting an uphill battle after twisting her left ankle after just 12 minutes and needing prolonged treatment.
However, she showed her fighting spirit by fending off five match points before a Bouchard service winner ensured it would be Canada’s day.
Regardless of the result of Saturday’s final against Petra Kvitova, Bouchard will now move into the top 10 in the WTA rankings but she is not inclined to celebrate anything just yet.
“This is what I’ve worked for,” she said. “But it’s not a surprise to me. I expect good results like this. It’s a step in the right direction. I get to play in the final. I still have another match so it’s not a full celebration yet.”
With Bouchard struggling to land her first serve on target, Halep had broken in only the third game of the match before disaster struck in the next game. Running to the left on the baseline, the Romanian turned over on her left ankle. “I felt a big pain and couldn’t push any more on my leg,” explained Halep, whose upper left leg was already bandaged because of a strain suffered in her third round match. “My first serve was really bad after that.”
Halep managed to make light of her handicap in the rest of that first set, denying Bouchard what would have been a 5-3 lead by saving two break points and when it went to a tie-break she was ahead by three points to two when play was held up after a spectator was taken ill.
On the resumption she won the next point, too, and would have been within two points of the set had not Bouchard benefited from a lucky net cord. To someone of Bouchard’s fighting renown, this was the gift she needed, winning four of the next five points, clinching the set after exactly an hour with a forehand volley and taking a grip on this semi-final which she never subsequently relinquished.
She was also helped by Halep’s physical decline. “After that point [the net cord] I lost a little bit my concentration,” she admitted. “Then I lost my energy because I have played so many matches lately. After the French Open the time to recover was really short.”
Double-faults crept into her game and Bouchard sensed it was time to go for the kill, moving into a 5-1 lead with a pair of aces. Then, surprisingly, she faltered. Three match points were missed on Halep’s reduced serve and the Canadian missed two more (one with a double-fault) before Halep offered her a sixth opportunity to close out the contest with an overhit backhand. This time Bouchard’s serve was good enough to put her into the Wimbledon final, another Canadian first for her to celebrate.
“I get to make Canadian history again,” she smiled. “But my job is not done. I want to go another step further. So I’m going to stay focused. After doing well in the past few Slams [she was a semi-finalist at both this year’s Australian and French Opens] I’ve been believing since the beginning of this tournament that I can do really well. But I’m just so excited for the next match.”
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