Go Canada! Bouchard burns off Halep to reach Wimbledon final and make history

Petra Kvitova stands between the 20-year-old and glory.

EUGENIE BOUCHARD BECAME the first Canadian to reach a Grand Slam singles final on  when she defeated Romania’s Simona Halep in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

The 20-year-old world number 13 beat the third seed and French Open runner-up 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 and will take on Czech sixth seed Petra Kvitova, the 2011 champion, in Saturday’s final.

Britain Wimbledon Tennis Source: Ben Curtis

Bouchard, with her athleticism and positive demeanour, will now 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.

“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.”

In front of a crowd which included Oscar winning actors, Colin Firth and Maggie Smith, it was Halep who broke first for 2-1 before Bouchard, playing in her third Grand Slam semi-final of the year, hit back for 2-2.

Halep then needed a medical time-out after a worrying slip on the dry, grassless baseline which caused her to turn her left ankle.

The Romanian held firm, fighting off a break point in the eighth game to take the first set into the tiebreaker where play was halted again with Halep 3/2 to the good when a fan collapsed on the hottest day of the year in London.

Bouchard, the junior champion in 2012, broke for a 2-1 lead in the second set courtesy of two double faults and secured a double break for 5-1.

Tennis - 2014 Wimbledon Championships - Day Eleven - The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Source: Jonathan Brady

There was a moment of tension in the seventh game when Bouchard saw a match point swallowed up by an ace which stood despite her having stopped when a fan screamed out from the crowd.

A few nervy moments followed as five match points came and went but victory was secured when a tiring Halep, playing for the third time in three days, netted a service return.

In the earlier match, Kvitova swept into her second Wimbledon final with a 7-6 (8/6), 6-1 victory over fellow Czech and close friend Lucie Safarova that included 24 winners and eight aces in 80 minutes on Centre Court.

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.

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Tennis - 2014 Wimbledon Championships - Day Eleven - The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Kvitova (right) is congratulated by her fellow Czech Lucie Safarova Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

“It’s great, definitely. I have a lot of emotion from this match,” Kvitova said.

“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.

Kvitova, the only player born in the 1990s to win a Grand Slam title, knew it would be tricky to face one of her closest friends in the first all-Czech Grand Slam semi-final.

But she had already dispatched compatriots Andrea Hlavackova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova earlier in the tournament, and managed to keep her emotions in check long enough to get the best of her Fed Cup team-mate as well.

While Kvitova had lost three of her four Grand Slam semi-finals, she could take heart from her 5-0 record against Safarova and she was quickly back in control on a sun-kissed Centre Court.

Upper hand

Unloading a series of ferocious groundstrokes, Kvitova broke in the opening game when a backhand winner flashed past Safarova.

But Safarova was in combative mood herself and she broke back in the fourth game.

Source: Wimbledon/YouTube

Kvitova had the upper hand in the tie-break and although she couldn’t convert her first set point, she capitalised on a rare Safarova miscue to earn another which she took with a superb winner before letting out a roar of celebration.

The momentum was with Kvitova now and she broke again in the second game of the second set, hammering a return which Safarova couldn’t handle.

One more break in the sixth game put the final within touching distance and Kvitova sealed the deal in emphatic fashion.

- © AFP, 2014

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