LONDON - Eugenie Bouchard became the first Canadian to reach a Grand Slam singles final at Wimbledon on Thursday and will tackle 2011 champion Petra Kvitova in a title match-up few could have predicted.
Bouchard, the 20-year-old world number 13, reached the championship finale by beating Romanian third seed Simona Halep, the French Open runner-up, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2. Kvitova swept into her second Wimbledon final with a 7-6 (8/6), 6-1 victory over fellow Czech and close friend Lucie Safarova. Tall, blonde Bouchard, a marketing dream for the women's game with her photogenic looks, athleticism and confident, positive demeanour, will also rise to number seven in the world rankings, the highest position ever achieved by a Canadian player.
Halep, the highest seed left in the draw after the shock defeats of Serena Williams and Li Na, suffered a nasty fall in the fifth game of the opening set when she jarred her left ankle into the bone-dry Centre Court. Play was also held up in the first set tiebreak when a fan was overcome by the 30-degree heat and had to be helped from the court.
But the distractions did not hinder Bouchard who achieved her first win over a top-five player at the sixth attempt although she needed six match points to get the job done. "It was hard at the end. It took a lot of mental strength to get through that," said Bouchard, playing in her third Grand Slam semi-final of the year and watched from the Royal Box by Oscar winning actors, Colin Firth and Maggie Smith. "It's my first Grand Slam final and probably my toughest match yet. I'm looking forward to the challenge.
"I never say I'm surprised because I put in a lot of hard work over the years. This has been a lot of years in the making. I expect a tough challenge in the final. She will go in prepared. "It's going to be really cool. I'm glad I got to stay at Wimbledon for two whole weeks. I'm going to give it my best effort in the final." Bouchard hit 20 winners to Halep's 13 with both players committing 23 unforced errors.
Kvitova won her only Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2011 and the sixth seed is one more victory away from lifting the Venus Rosewater dish for the second time after seeing off 23rd seed Safarova with 24 winners and eight aces. The 24-year-old is back in a Grand Slam final for the first time since that surprise triumph against Maria Sharapova at the All England Club three years ago. "It's great, definitely. I have a lot of emotion from this match," said Kvitova.
"It was a tough match mentally because she is good friend of mine and we know each other well on and off the court. I knew she would play her best tennis and she did. Happily I won. "I tried to be focused in the tie-break then I broke early in the second set and served well after that." As the only former Grand Slam winner left in the women's tournament, Kvitova knows she has a glorious opportunity to finally get her hands on some significant silverware again.
"I know that feeling when you have the trophy," she added. "I really want to win my second title and I will do everything I can on Saturday." Kvitova has been in fine form over the last fortnight, dropping just one set en route to the final and was playing in her third Wimbledon semi-final. In contrast, Safarova, 27, was making her Grand Slam semi-final debut at the 37th attempt.