Eugenie Bouchard's 1st Big Step to Stardom on the Line in 2014 Wimbledon Final

Lindsay Gibbs@linzsports Featured ColumnistJuly 3, 2014

Eugenie Bouchard of Canada celebrates after winning the first set as she plays against Simona Halep of Romania during their women’s singles semifinal match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Thursday, July 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Ben Curtis/Associated Press

Welcome to the big time, Genie Bouchard.

The 20-year-old Canadian moved one step closer to fulfilling her dream on Thursday. With bold hitting and an aggressive mindset, she took out No. 3 seed Simona Halep 7-6, 6-2 in the Wimbledon semifinals to make it to her first major final. She is the first Canadian to go this far in a Grand Slam. 

But whatever you do, don't call this a Cinderella story.

Though she was only the No. 13 seed in these Championships, Bouchard expected to be here. You could tell by her understated reaction when when she finally converted her sixth match point.

There was a sigh of relief, a quick smile and a nod to her box of supporters. Then it was back to business. After all, she still has one more match to go. On Saturday she will face 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova for a chance to win her first Venus Rosewater Dish. 

"I never say I'm surprised," she told the BBC right after the biggest win of her career.

The self-assured Bouchard talked to reporters about this confidence after her quarterfinal win over No. 9 seed Angelique Kerber on Wednesday. ASAP Sports has the transcript:

Well, tennis is something I've played for 15 years now. I've put in a lot of hard work on the court. So, you know, results that come for me, in the back of my mind I expected them because I've put in so much time and effort. I have that true belief that I deserve these results when I get them.

As meteoric as Bouchard's rise has been, there were plenty of signs that something like this was on the horizon.

She stayed an amateur for as long as possible, and the decision paid off when she won the Junior Wimbledon title two years ago as an 18-year-old. While most of her peers were already losing on the WTA Tour, Bouchard was honing her champion's mentality, getting used to being the favorite and delivering week in and week out.

That made her transition to the pros a breeze.

Bouchard after winning Junior Wimbledon in 2012.
Bouchard after winning Junior Wimbledon in 2012.Uncredited/Associated Press

Last year was her first full year on tour, and she made quite a splash, earning the WTA Newcomer of the Year award. She began the year ranked No. 147 and didn't even make it through the 2013 Australian Open qualification tournament.

But by April she had made her first WTA quarterfinal and by May was ranked high enough for direct entry into her first major main draw at the French Open. By June she got her first marquee win, taking out former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic on Centre Court at Wimbledon 6-3, 6-3 in the second round.

Ben Curtis/Associated Press

This year she's announced herself as a legitimate Slam contender. She was a surprise when she made the Australian Open semifinals in January, but she has proved that was anything but a fluke.

Bouchard won her first WTA title in May, made it to the French Open semifinals as well and, of course, is now into the Wimbledon final.

She's shown improvement every step of the way. She was very shaky at the start of her first major semifinal in Australia, losing rather meekly to eventual champion Li Na 6-2, 6-4. She handled herself better in the French Open semifinals, pushing Maria Sharapova to the brink in a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 loss.

Now with that experience under her belt, Bouchard came out on Centre Court on Thursday with a spring in her step, taking it to the French Open finalist Halep from start to finish.

The Canadian started the year ranked No. 31, and she will make her Top 10 debut after Wimbledon concludes.

The most impressive thing about Bouchard is her attitude. While most up-and-comers are focused on the process and feel like they have the rest of their careers to win big, the Canadian wants success now. Actually, she'd rather have it yesterday, but she'll settle for today if that's all she can get.

Considering Bouchard's form coming into Wimbledon and her past success in London, it's really no surprise that she came through this half of the draw after Serena Williams and Sharapova were upset.

In fact, heading into the second week of the tournament, Sports Illustrated's Courtney Nguyen reminded people not to forget about the 20-year-old:

I actually don't think Bouchard's a "dark horse." I think she's a legitimate threat to win the title. ...Her aggressive style is perfect for grass and she hugs the baseline and takes the ball incredibly early, which is the secret to opening up the court on this surface.  

After getting her first Top Five win over Halep in the semifinals, Bouchard is now one match away from proving Nguyen right.

In the final, Bouchard will be the slight underdog to Kvitova, who has looked just as strong—if not stronger—than she did during her run to this title three years ago. It should be her toughest test of the tournament. Kvitova's phenomenal serve and aggressive groundstrokes will be difficult for Bouchard to counter.

However, don't expect the Canadian to melt down on the big stage. She was born for this.

For a while, Bouchard has been talked about as the future of tennis. On Saturday, we will find out if the future is now.


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