A new era of women's tennis is set to begin on Thursday in London.
In their place are three up-and-comers who can use the Wimbledon stage to begin a dominant run. Outside of one seemingly out-of-place former champ left in the bracket, the stage represents a slow upheaval of the sport as we know it that has been alluded to all season long through upsets at each tournament.
It all comes to a head on Thursday with a trip to the finals hanging in the balance.
Date: Thursday, July 3
Time: 8 a.m.-1 p.m. ET
TV Info: ESPN
|Player 1||Player 2||Predicted Winner|
|Petra Kvitova||vs.||Lucie Safarova||Petra Kvitova|
|Simona Halep||vs.||Eugenie Bouchard||Eugenie Bouchard|
Petra Kvitova vs. Lucie Safarova
No. 6 seed Petra Kvitova is the aforementioned former champion and the obvious favorite of those who remain in play.
The winner of the 2011 tournament, Kvitova has looked nothing but dominant with recent notable wins over Venus Williams (5-7, 7-6, 7-5), Peng Shuai (6-3, 6-2) and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (6-1, 7-5). As Sports Illustrated pointed out before the quarterfinals, history is certainly in the Czech star's favor:
No. 6 Petra Kvitova is a combined 11-2 against the players remaining in her half. 3-1 vs. BZS, 5-0 vs. Safarova, 3-1 vs. Makarova.— SI Tennis (@SI_Tennis) June 30, 2014
But the all-Czech semifinal bout won't see Kvitova steamroll the No. 23 seed. While her opponent has been able to move past lesser seeds, Safarova upended No. 10 seed Dominika Cibulkova (6-4, 6-2) and also owns recent impressive wins over players such as Tereza Smitkova (6-0, 6-2) and Ekaterina Makarova (6-3, 6-1).
There is surely passing-of-the-torch material here to kick off Day 10. Safarova is 0-5 against her fellow countrywoman in the head-to-head category, but the 27-year-old star is in pristine form as she enters her first Grand Slam tournament semifinal.
Three-time Grand Slam title winner Tracy Austin explained the situation best, as captured by BBC Sport:
The crowd were on their feet afterwards because I think they saw how important that win was to Safarova. To make her first semi-final means the world to her. She puts in a lot of work and has done since she first came on the tour around a decade ago. This is the biggest moment of her career but she handled the situation better and served extremely well and played a great match.
When push comes to shove, though, experience may be the slight advantage Kvitova needs to pull off the victory and advance to the final. Both players' current form is rather impressive, which means there needs to be another deciding factor.
Combine recent matches in her favor and experience beneath the microscope on one of the sport's biggest stages, and the nod goes ever so slightly to Kvitova.
Prediction: Kvitova def. Safarova, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (2)
Simona Halep vs. Eugenie Bouchard
Let's allow TSN producer Sofie Kouleas to take it away for a moment in regard to the dance between No. 3 seed Simona Halep and No. 13 seed Eugenie Bouchard:
The future of the women's game has arrived. Bouchard vs Halep will meet in the semifinals #Wimbledon— Sofie Kouleas (@sofiekouleas) July 2, 2014
So the importance for the future of the sport is most certainly there, but so is the utter domination from both women.
At just 20 years old, Bouchard has upended those in the bracket with rather stellar track records. She moved past Alize Cornet in the fourth round (7-6, 7-5) after Cornet had upset Serena Williams. She then beat Angelique Kerber (6-3, 6-4), who was coming off a triumph over Sharapova.
Two years Bouchard's senior, Halep has had some notable performances, too. The Romanian star has dropped just one set against the competition thus far, with triumphs over Teliana Pereira (6-2), Lesia Tsurenko (6-3, 4-6, 6-4), Belinda Bencic (6-4, 6-1), Zarina Diyas (6-3, 6-0) and No. 19 seed Sabine Lisicki (6-4, 6-0).
Don't expect the historical context to be any help when determining the winner of this battle, either. Halep has the 1-0 edge, a 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 victory at the BNP Paribas Open this season.
The decisive factor this time around? The first set. Halep is seemingly impossible to beat if she takes the first set, although Bouchard sounds prepared for whatever her rival will throw her way, per Hugh Muir of The Guardian:
She's playing really well. She can change direction really well on the court. I'm going to be ready for that. It's the semis. I'm going to expect the toughest match ever. I have confidence in myself. I believe I can win but I expect a tough match. She's a great player and she's playing really well so I have just to enjoy it.
The thing is, Bouchard is no stranger to the big stage despite entering as the younger underdog—she appeared in the final four at the Australian and French Opens this year, too.
Simply put, she's due. Bouchard drags out sets and has shot 137 winners to Halep's 104 to this point, and those two factors might just decide what is sure to be a classic encounter—and a preview of many future duels between the two.
Prediction: Bouchard def. Halep, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4