Meets former champ Kvitova in title round
Having reached the semifinals at the Australian Open and at Roland Garros in what has already been a golden year, Eugenie Bouchard did one better at Wimbledon on Thursday. The rising star’s 7-6(5), 6-2 victory over third seeded Simona Halep secures her a place in the final, further consolidating the view that she could well be the next big thing in women’s tennis.
The Canadian 20-year-old showed very little nerves in edging past Halep in the first set and all but running away with the second.
In the first, Halep broke early and then turned her ankle during a point, needing a medical time out as well as some heavy strapping.
When Bouchard levelled at 2-2, it seemed as if the combination of the injury and Bouchard’s superior firepower would be too much for the Romanian, who depends critically on her ability to scramble around the court to compensate for her lack of height and power.
But Bouchard, who rightly sensed that there was opportunity in attacking Halep’s serve which was particularly weak and ineffectual, seemed much too eager in the manner she went after it. Bouchard sprayed many a return long, which helped Halep stay in the match and level 6-6.
The tie-break, which had its moments of drama — including a hold-up after a spectator fainted in the stands — saw an exchange of mini-breaks before Halep found herself down two set points, of which she could save only the first.
From here onwards, Canada’s golden girl grew in confidence breaking Halep, thanks to two double faults, to go up 2-1 and then running with the momentum to reach 5-1, the sixth game held with some difficulty after three deuces.
Bouchard had two match-points in the next game. On the first, she let the serve go by, complaining there was a noise from a spectator as Halep served. The umpire was unmoved and refused to allow the point to be replayed, after which Bouchard seemed to lose a little focus and, with it, the game.
But the 5-2 cushion was comfortable enough, and she saw a tense final game through, despite a double-fault contributing to a break-point.
Bouchard closed the match out with a serve that Halep netted, and the air of a woman who seemed neither surprised nor overwhelmed by her confident march to her first Grand Slam final.
At her post-match-press conference, she suggested it was not time to celebrate yet as there was a job to be done — to win one more match.
In that one, she will meet former champion Petra Kvitova, who got the better of her friend and fellow left-handed Czech Lucie Safarova in a semifinal that had its moments in the first set.
Despite a 5-0 head-to-head against Safarova, not to speak of a much stronger serve and an attacking game, Kvitova found the going far from easy in the first set, which she won narrowly in the tie-break.
Kvitova had established a 2-0 lead, but Safarova, playing her first Grand Slam semifinal, seemed anything but over-awed, breaking back quickly to draw level.
Though Safarova battled gamely to 6-6, she had stretched a little too far. There was little to tell the two apart in the first set — a mere point, in fact, with Kvitova getting 42 against Safarova’s 41.
When she lost in the tie-breaker, Safarova’s spirit seemed to weaken and her second serve was even more vulnerable against Kvitova’s growing aggression and confidence.
Safarova won a mere 47 per cent of points on her serve in the second set against her taller opponent’s 70 per cent, which was the single biggest contributor to the emphatic 6-1 score-line in he second set.
Meanwhile, India remained in contention at Wimbledon, with fifth seeds Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek coming back after a sloppy first set to script a 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-4 victory over the third-seeded Canadian-Serbian pair of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic to reach the semifinal.