|Eugenie Bouchard and Petra Kvitova after their semi-final victories, at Wimbledon, on Thursday
London: Powerful Canadian Eugenie Bouchard overcame match-point jitters to claim an eventful 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 victory over Romania’s Simona Halep 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 at Wimbledon on Thursday and reach a Grand Slam final for the first time.
She will face former champion Petra Kvitova in the final, who defeated the plucky Lucie Safarova 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 in their all-Czech showdown on Thursday.
The 20-year-old Eugenie from Montreal harried and chased third seed Halep from the baseline, producing a series of forehand winners.
The match was interrupted thrice. After four games Halep, 22, needed treatment on a sore ankle. Then in the tie-break a spectator was taken ill in the sunshine and had to be led from the stand.
On Bouchard’s first match point Halep served an ace, but 13th seed Bouchard complained she had been distracted by a noise in the crowd. She argued with the umpire Kader Nouni but the point stood.
With Bouchard rattled, Halep saved four more match points but her intensity was shot and she sent a ball long to offer the Canadian her sixth chance. Bouchard thumped down a big serve that the French Open finalist could only push into the net.
“It was a little crazy. I have never ended a match like that,” Bouchard said. “I’m happy I kept my focus and didn’t get distracted and played well in the last game. I’m really excited ... it’s my first Grand Slam final so I’m just going to go for it. I will probably have my toughest match yet so I’m looking forward to the challenge,” a beaming Bouchard said.
“My coach will watch her play and give me some tips on how she plays, but I’m just going to go out there and play my game. I think I can play even better than I did today.”
The semi-final victory shot Bouchard into the world’s top 10 in only her second year on the professional tour. Against Kvitova, few held out much hope of the 27-year-old Safarova beating her friend, who had lost all five of their previous meetings. “It was a tough match mentally because Lucie is a great friend of mine, we know each other well off the court as well. I am just happy I won,” sixth seed Kvitova, 24, said.
“I am very emotional but I have two days before the final to focus ... I know how it feels to lift that trophy so I will try my best to do it again.”
After having her serve broken in the opening game, Safarova quickly settled into unfamiliar surroundings on Centre Court, producing a series of venomous winners as the big-hitting left-handers slugged it out from the baseline.
The 23rd seed broke back in the fourth game and matched the powerful Kvitova every step of the way until the 2011 champion made the decisive breakthrough with a breathtaking cross-court forehand clinching a scintillating tie-break.
Bloodied but unbowed, Safarova continued to attack at every opportunity but without the consistency required to unsettle her opponent.
Kvitova stepped up a gear to forge into a 3-0 lead in the second set.
Safarova stemmed the flow in the fourth game but by then Kvitova had her measure and continued the relentless barrage of fierce returns and passing shots to secure victory.
In men’s singles semi-finals on Friday, young upstarts Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov, who have caused quite a stir at Wimbledon over the last two weeks, know they must rise to the challenges that await them.
With defending champion Andy Murray booted out of the tournament by Dimitrov and Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios dismantling two-time winner Rafael Nadal, only Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic remain from the so-called Big Four in men’s tennis.
The emergence of the young guns has been the topic of conversation at the All England Club, and an expectant Centre Court crowd will wait with baited breath to see how Raonic and Dimitrov compete against two of the game’s most accomplished performers in Federer and Djokovic.
Eighth seed Raonic, who became the first Canadian to reach Wimbledon’s last four since 1908, comes up against seven-time champion Federer, while Bulgarian Dimitrov meets 2011 winner Djokovic for a place in the final.
Raonic has not beaten Federer in four attempts but the 23-year-old, who regularly thunders 135mph serves past his opponents, is confident he can unsettle the silky Swiss with his brutal shot making.
“I’ve got in close with him in the past and I’ve found a lot of things that give me belief that I can do this,” said Raonic who beat Kyrgios in Wednesday’s quarter-final.