Playing marvelous tennis, Eugenie Bouchard brought historical glory to her nation by becoming the first ever Canadian tennis player to reach a Grand Slam singles final. In the second semifinal on Thursday, Bouchard ended the dreams of Romanian third seed Simona Halep to set up a championship encounter with Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova, who had overpowered her fellow Czech Lucie Safarova earlier in the day. Bouchard and 2011 winner Kvitova have previously faced one another just once in August 2013 during the Rogers Cup in Toronto but Bouchard is not thinking about it. The Canadian has been knocking the doors to enter the top bracket in women’s circuit for a while and has kept her game on an even keel through the 2014 season by reaching the semifinals of year’s first two Grand Slams in Melbourne and Paris. Now is, therefore, a big moment for her.
Many observers compare Bouchard with Maria Sharapova of last decade, when the Russian burst into the women’s tennis scene with a bang. And such comparison is not merely limited to the two girls’ glamorously marketable and extremely photogenic features. Maria was brilliant on the tennis courts in her early years with a sound temperament and consistency of play and after 10 years or more, she is still around. Bouchard, however, is a shade different. The tall and blond Canadian has the stunning looks of a Hollywood star but she also has a positive athletic propensity and commitment to the cause of tennis. In contrast to Maria, Bouchard is not given to theatrics. She remains focused on the job at hand, probing her opponents’ weaknesses and exploiting them to good effect. Those, who have watched Bouchard, will tell you that she does not waste her nervous energy in berating herself, doesn’t look skywards, when an error is committed and does not grunt when playing. If you want to brand her as cold or joyless, you can take your pick but that is because Bouchard is a professional to the core, though she is barely out of her teens.
In her match against Simona Halep, the 20-year-old Bouchard played a nerveless game with surgical precision. There were moments in the match, when she was down but she kept her emotions in check and chose to get on with the game. As a matter of fact, she didn’t display her true capabilities against Halep but when time came, she exhibited a ruthless quality in her assault that left Halep stranded. The first set was well fought with both players measuring each other. Bouchard found that the Romanian was not effective with her service on many occasions on account of her short 5’6” stature. In the second set, Bouchard exploited this shortcoming by shifting her position and returning the service to make the Romanian run around in her side of the court.
In the opening set, the two players lost their service in the first four games. But afterwards, they kept found their rhythm to take the set to the tie-break, during which Bouchard trailed 2-4. Then suddenly she got lucky with a point on the net chord. She didn’t apologize as other tennis players would but reeled off the next four points in a row to hold a set point. Though, Halep saved the first set point with a fabulous forehand, Bouchard served strongly to earn her second and this time she produced a rocketing forehand to close the set.
In the second set, a double-fault from Halep gave an early break to Bouchard. From this time onwards, Bouchard controlled the game with great authority. Her ruthless attitude came to fore, when Halep sent down an ace at 1-5, 15-40. Bouchard went to the chair umpire and complained that she was not ready when Halep served. Though Halep was strikingly close to losing the match, Bouchard was not prepared to let the matter drop. Halep however proved to be a fierce competitor as she saved five match points, before throwing in the towel and lost 6-7, 1-6. With the match in her pocket, Bouchrd only raised her arms towards her player’s box but there was just a hint of a smile on her face.
In the first semifinal played earlier, two Czech women, Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova fought bitterly in the first set. The set was finally decided on the tie-break but Kvitova made it easy for herself in the second by playing a much better game. She began the set with a 3-0 lead and kept the pressure until the end to finish with a 7-6, 6-1 victory. It will be interesting to watch Kvitova taking on Bouchard on Saturday’s championship match.