Eugenie Bouchard is heading to her first Grand Slam final after beating No. 3 seed Simona Halep in straight sets, 7-6 (5), 6-2, in the 2014 Wimbledon semifinals.
Halep and Bouchard are two of the most promising players on the WTA Tour. The 22-year-old Romanian reached the final of the French Open before falling to Maria Sharapova, while the 20-year-old Canadian has reached the semifinals in all three majors so far this season.
Although there are plenty of high-profile meetings in their future, this marked just the second clash between the rising stars. They played earlier this year at Indian Wells, a match won by Halep after a close third set.
Vivienne Christie of Wimbledon's official site passed along comments prior to the semifinals from Bouchard, who said she definitely learned some things in that match:
We had a good match at Indian Wells. I felt like I had chances, was really close, and just lost that one. I learned, you know, a little bit about her game. I think she's playing really well. So I'm going to be ready for that—really just try to go for it and take my chances. You know, leave it all out on the court. It's the semis, so I'm going to expect the toughest match ever.
One thing that's always a question mark when it comes to young players and a huge stage like the Wimbledon semifinals is nerves. Neither player seemed to get overwhelmed by the situation early on. Their success in majors earlier in the year likely helped in that regard.
As expected, the match was very much nip-and-tuck early on. They traded holds and then traded breaks with neither player gaining any type of serious advantage.
The first notable moment came when Halep attempted to slide on the grass and instead got stuck, which caused her to roll an ankle. Wimbledon provided a look at the worrisome incident, which caused an immediate call for the trainer:
Halep received a heavy tape job on her left ankle. Luckily for the No. 3 seed, she was able to settle back in after a couple points, and it didn't appear to have a lasting impact on her play. It could have been much worse given the nature of the injury.
From that point (2-2) forward there were no more breaks in the opening set. Bouchard was able to generate a couple break-point opportunities but couldn't convert. It led to a tiebreak to decide which player would gain control of the semifinal.
Right in the middle of the breaker there was an unexpected delay as a fan fell ill in the stands. Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal commented on the incident:
Bouchard was the far better player after the pause in play. She won five of the next seven points to turn an early tiebreak deficit into a first-set victory. Her composure in big moments is certainly one of her most impressive traits.
Brian Wilde of CTV explained why the 13th seed was able to capture the opening set despite not playing her best tennis:
The performance of both players impressed four-time Grand Slam singles champion Kim Clijsters:
The second set was far less competitive. Losing that tiebreak really seemed to take a lot out of Halep. Her level of play dropped considerably, leading to a massive uptick in unforced errors. Bouchard just remained steady and let her opponent make the mistakes.
There's always a lingering thought that a young player will deal with jitters trying to close out a match. That didn't happen. Bouchard showed no signs of a meltdown as she cruised through the final games like an established veteran aside from a few minor hiccups.
She closed out the match on serve and didn't get overly emotional. It's clear she believes that type of result should be expected, even if it's at least a minor surprise to others.
The reaction of Damien Cox of Sportsnet shows how far Canadian tennis has come:
Wimbledon provided Bouchard's subdued celebration:
Bouchard now heads to the Wimbledon final. It's her first trip to the championship match of a major, and it comes in just her sixth appearance in a main draw. She will face Petra Kvitova, who previously triumphed at the All England Club in 2011 and won the only career meeting between the two.
Kvitova will likely enter as the favorite given her track record, but it's certainly a winnable match for Bouchard. She must continue to play aggressively despite the lack of top form in the semifinal because it will take her best effort to knock off the powerful Czech star.
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