Bouchard set for final duel
Kvitova stands between Canadian and title
EUGENIE BOUCHARD continued her relentless march to the top of the women's game by defeating Simona Halep to reach her first grand slam final at Wimbledon.
It was a meeting of the two most improved players on the circuit but, after Halep's run to the French Open final, this time it is Bouchard who will bid for a first slam title when she takes on Petra Kvitova on Saturday.
Luck was certainly on 20-year-old Bouchard's side, with Halep turning her ankle early in the match and then seeing a net-cord go against her at a crucial stage of the tie-break.
The second set was all Bouchard and the Canadian, the only player to reach the semi-finals at every slam so far this season, clinched a 7-6 (7/5) 6-2 victory after an hour and 35 minutes.
Bouchard is now relishing the biggest match of her life.
"I can't wait to play. It's my first grand slam final so I'm just going to go for it," she said. "I'll have probably my toughest match yet so I'm looking forward to the challenge.
"I never say I'm surprised because I've put in a lot of hard work and it's been years in the making.
"I believe in myself and I expect good results and I always want more. I've had a good start to season but I expect myself to do even better than that."
Clinching the biggest victory of her life was not straightforward for the 2012 junior Wimbledon champion, though. Halep saved three match points on her serve and then two more went begging on Bouchard's, the second on a nervy double fault.
But a sixth chance followed and this time Bouchard's serve did the business.
"That took a little bit of mental strength there to stay focused," Bouchard said. "I'm not going to give away my secrets but it's important for me to enjoy being out there and focus on what I need to do during the point, tactically how I want to play."
Kvitova will have the experience of playing a Wimbledon final previously, when she won the 2011 title, but Bouchard is certain to be primed for the big occasion.
"She'll go in prepared and I'll be prepared as well. My coach will watch her play and give me some tips on how she plays," added Bouchard. "I'm just going to go out there and play my game. I think I can play even better than I did today.
"I'm glad I got to stay at Wimbledon for two whole weeks. I just want to give it my best effort.
"I want to leave it all out on the court and we'll see what happens."
Kvitova powered into her second Wimbledon final just two weeks after a hamstring injury cast doubt on her involvement.
The 2011 champion saw off Czech compatriot Lucie Safarova in straight sets to reach her second grand slam final yesterday.
Kvitova prevailed 7-6 (8/6) 6-1 against 27-year-old Safarova, who always looked slightly overawed in her first grand slam semi-final.
"I can't really describe how I'm feeling right now, but it's great," Kvitova said.
"It's tough mentally as she's a good friend of mine. I knew she would play really well, but I'm just happy to have won.
"I tried to be focused from the beginning of the second set. I won the tie-break then I broke her when she served for the second time, and I served well until the last point.
"It's great to be back in the final. I'm just emotional from this match, but I still have two days to go to the final.
"I know what it's like to be defending a title here. I really want to win my second title here and I will do everything that I can."