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The Twelfth Day: Wimbledon 2014 Daily Preview

Eugenie Bouchard on Centre Court after her Semi-finals victory
by Clive White
Friday 4 July 2014

It would, of course, be premature to talk about the demise of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, particularly the latter after her inspirational form at the French Open and something not far short of that at these Championships. But every realm must have a queen or at least a princess and who better to fill the void, however temporary, than the regally named Eugenie Bouchard.

Up till now the 20-year-old Canadian has looked the part, now we are about to find out if the crown fits, too. Her opponent, Petra Kvitova, abdicated from all responsibility soon after her success here in 2011 as she struggled to cope with the demands and expectations that go with being a Wimbledon champion.

Somehow one fancies that the supremely confident - but not over-confident - Bouchard wouldn’t have that problem should she win on Centre Court today. Indeed one senses she might even become a more formidable player because of it.

Some players become tentative or worse still freeze when they arrive at such a defining moment in their career, but it would be a major surprise if Bouchard did. As she said: “I think I play a solid, aggressive game, one that’s well suited for grass. I want to try to take my chances, not kind of wait till someone gives it to me.”

If both women play to their strengths it could be quite a final because Kvitova’s game is naturally aggressive, too. The Czech girl has an excellent left-handed serve. It’s not much faster than Bouchard’s but far more profitable, as 38 aces so far compared to 15 from the Canadian would suggest.

Also, there’s a small query about how seriously Bouchard has been tested here. Her wins in the fourth round and quarter-finals were against players - Alize Cornet and Angelique Kerber - who were still parachuting down from cloud nine after victories against Serena and Sharapova, respectively. Also, her semi-final opponent, Simona Halep, was injured early in the match. While Kvitova beat arguably lesser players en route to the final, her three-set win against Venus Williams in the third round seemed to do wonders for her confidence.

However much Wimbledon may be the cause of the Czech's mental angst, paradoxically it hasn’t stopped her from performing to a very acceptable level at SW19 in the intervening years. She has reached at worst the quarter-finals each year since her triumph and three semi-finals in the last five years. In fact, she is never happier than when she is playing at Wimbledon.

“I probably thought that I need to win any match I'm going to play after that because I'm Grand Slam champion and everybody expecting from me just the best,” Kvitova said yesterday her pre-match press conference. “It's not all like that.”

She may be comforted by the thought that not a few multiple Grand Slam champions took three years to win their second one, including Serena Williams, and motivated by the thought that if she pulls it off this time she will be the only multiple Wimbledon ladies champion currently playing - the Williams sisters apart. After 10 years, Sharapova is still waiting for her second.

Bouchard was asked yesterday how she thought she would handle all the attention if she were to become a Wimbledon champion, but of Sharapova megastar dimensions rather than Kvitova proportions. The young lady’s answer told the inquirer everything they needed to know.

“First and foremost I focus on the tennis,” she said. “Whatever comes with it I take in [my] stride. I know it’s part of the job. I appreciate everything that comes with it. But I know if I don't perform on the court then there’s not much off court.

 “So I really try to focus on my job, because at the end of the day I'm a tennis player. I go to work every day and I work on my tennis. As long as I do that, I'll take anything that comes with it.”

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