20-Year-Old Canadian Sweeps to Women’s Final
Wimbledon, England — Had she dropped to her knees in disbelief Thursday, overcome by shock upon clinching a spot in Wimbledon’s final at age 20, Eugenie Bouchard would have been forgiven.
No such forgiveness was required.
Bouchard already boasts three Wimbledon titles: The 2012 girls’ singles title and the 2011 and 2012 girls’ doubles title. And, although Canadian, she was named for a member of Britain’s royal family.
So it was with a sense of well-earned achievement, if not outright entitlement, that Bouchard calmly strode to the net to shake hands after her 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 victory over third-seeded Simona Halep.
“It’s not like a surprise to me,” Bouchard said. “I expect good results like this. So for me, I was like, ‘Okay, good. 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.”
That may come Saturday, when the 13th-seeded Bouchard faces Wimbledon’s 2011 champion, 24-year-old Petra Kvitova, in the women’s final.
Kvitova won the battle of the Czech left-handers in Thursday’s earlier semifinal, subduing good friend Lucie Safarova in a match that unfolded in similar fashion, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1. Kvitova improved to 6-0 against her compatriot, who was playing in her first major semifinal.
After a nervous start by both players, who appeared loath to win at the other’s expense, Kvitova asserted her edge in power and big-match experience in the tiebreak and let out a screech upon clinching it.
Though Kvitova is the higher seed (sixth), Bouchard has posted better results this season, raising her game and her expectations almost weekly. She’s the only woman to reach the semifinals of all three Grand Slams this season —the Australian (hard court), French Open (clay) and Wimbledon (grass)—a testament to her toughness and versatility.
And from the moment five-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams lost in the third round, followed by 2004 champion Maria Sharapova in the fourth, Bouchard was most tennis insiders’ pick to win the coveted title.
Chris Evert, who counts three Wimbledon trophies among her 18 majors, believes Bouchard is better this week than she was just four weeks ago at the French Open, where she pushed Sharapova to three sets in the semifinals.
“Everybody talks about her composure and her mental toughness,” said Evert, now an ESPN commentator, who set the standard for both during her Hall of Fame career. “But I think the fact that she has a big game is under-estimated. She has got power. She has got a big serve. She moves really well on grass. She has got a good volley, and she is very comfortable with pressure.
“She enjoys her success for about 10 minutes, and then she’s on to the next match. She’s hungry. I haven’t seen that many hungry women.”
Thursday’s semifinal threw a bit of everything at Bouchard.
The third-seeded Halep, a finalist at the French Open, is a hard-hitter herself, as well as a speedy retriever. And the two matched each other stroke for stroke in a tight first set settled by a tiebreak that was temporarily halted so a fan who fell ill could be safely escorted from the stands.
At 5-feet-10, Bouchard stands four inches taller than Halep. But because the Canadian is so aggressive, pouncing on serves from the baseline rather than planting herself well behind it and charging forward on any short ball, it made her loom even taller to Halep.
“She’s moving really well, so she’s everywhere on court,” said Halep, who was hampered as the match wore on by a sprained ankle suffered late in the first set.
“In the second set I lost my energy, and I couldn’t believe any more that I can finish the match in the right way for me,” Halep said. Nonetheless, the Romanian saved three match points before succumbing.
In Kvitova, Bouchard will face an opponent who equals her power and shares her aggressive tactics.
Kivtova’s results have been uneven since handing Sharapova a straight-set defeat in the Wimbledon’s 2011 final. She rose as high as No. 2 in the world that year, then slipped to No. 8 in the years that followed.
Kvitova conceded Thursday that she simply wasn’t prepared at age 21 for the attention and expectation that come with winning Wimbledon.
But for the most part, she said, her life has stabilized and improved. She now drives a BMW rather than a Skoda. And she has regained her competitive footing with help from a sports psychologist.
Bouchard, by contrast, feels that 20 is a fitting age to reach Wimbledon’s final, given the results she has already achieved.
“Of course I feel extra special here, a little bit like I’m at home,” Bouchard said. “It’s always enjoyable coming to Wimbledon.”