Sunday, May 20, 2018
Sports

Eugenie Bouchard, Petra Kvitova advance to Wimbledon final

LONDON — Eugenie Bouchard could have lost her focus after the fourth game of her Wimbledon semi­final Thursday, when play was delayed for five minutes during Simona Halep's medical timeout for a left ankle injury.

Bouchard also could have gotten sidetracked when action was halted again, smack-dab in the middle of a tiebreaker, because an ill spectator was being attended to in the Centre Court stands.

And everything really could have unraveled for Bouchard later, as she let match point after match point slip away. Able to steel herself time and again, Bouchard became Canada's first Grand Slam finalist by beating French Open runnerup Halep 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 at the All England Club.

"I'm able to not worry about the distractions," the 20-year-old Bouchard said. "What I do well is I really don't let it get to me or affect me."

In only her sixth major tournament, the 13th-seeded Bouchard plays for the championship Saturday against 2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova. The sixth-seeded Kvitova beat No. 23 Lucie Safarova 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 in the first all-Czech women's Slam semifinal.

From 6-all in the tiebreaker, Kvitova won 31 of 48 points the rest of the way, using her overpowering serve and forehand that work so well on grass to improve to 6-0 against Safarova.

Another Canadian, Milos Raonic, will try to join Bouchard as a finalist. Today's men's semifinals match seven-time champion Roger Federer against Raonic, and top-seeded Novak Djokovic against Grigor Dimitrov.

As of now, the 24-year-old Kvitova is the only man or woman born in the 1990s to win a Grand Slam title. If Bouchard becomes the second, she also would be the youngest major champion since Maria Sharapova was 19 at the 2006 U.S. Open. Bouchard reached the semifinals at the Australian Open and French Open this year before losing to the eventual champions.

Halep led 3-2 in the tiebreaker when chair umpire Kader Nouni noticed something was wrong with a woman in a lower-tier seat and waved both players to the sideline.

After a four-minute break, Halep went ahead 4-2. On the next point, Bouchard hit a net-cord winner — "a lucky ball," Halep called it. Bouchard took four of the next five points, closing the set with a swinging forehand volley.

"She's pretty calm, always composed," said Bouchard's mother, Julie Leclair, who sat two seats away from Bouchard's friend, Big Bang Theory actor Jim Parsons, in the player's guest box.

Bouchard would like to think fellow Canadian Justin Bieber is noticing her Wimbledon run. After she won her semifinal, Bouchard was asked whether she thinks pop star Bieber is aware that she's the first player from Canada to reach a Grand Slam title match.

"I hope so," she said with a smile. "I'm putting in so much hard work. I want to see this hard work rewarded."

At the Australian Open in January, Bouchard was asked who she'd like to go out on a date with — and she quickly gave Bieber's name. He responded by sending a Tweeter message wishing her good luck.

When Bouchard was teasingly asked whether Bieber has been in touch with her during Wimbledon, she said he hadn't and laughed.

"You know," Bouchard said, going along with the joke, "he's kind of been in trouble recently."

Then, she said: "I'm not associated with that at the moment. But, you know, if he cleans up his image. …"

Bieber is scheduled to go on trial this month in Miami on charges he was driving under the influence and without a valid driver's license. He has also been charged in Toronto with assault.

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