LONDON – Eugenie Bouchard defeated French Open runnerup Simona Halep 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 Thursday to become the first Canadian ever to advance to a Grand Slam tournament final.
The 20-year-old Bouchard, who has not dropped a set in six matches, won on her sixth match point and will play 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who beat fellow Czech left-hander Lucie Safarova 7-6 (8-6), 6-1.
Bouchard lost in the semifinals at the year’s two previous majors, the Australian Open and French Open.
She’s projected to rise to No. 7 — the highest ranking for a Canadian woman — by reaching Saturday’s final and would go to No. 6 by winning the championship. Bouchard would also be the youngest Grand Slam champion since 19-year-old Maria Sharapova won the 2006 U.S. Open.
“I’ve put in a lot of hard work and it’s been kind of years in the making to me,” Bouchard said. “So I believe in myself and I expect good results. I’ve had a good start to the season, but I expect myself to do even better than that.”
In a semifinal that was delayed twice in the first set — first by a left ankle injury to Halep, and then when a woman spectator fell ill during the tiebreaker — Halep double-faulted on break point in the second set and then was broken again by Bouchard to give the Canadian a 4-1 lead.
No. 3-seeded Halep, who saved three match points in the seventh game and two more in the final game, appeared to be increasingly affected by her ankle injury and looked down at her feet several times after hitting shots.
“It was difficult to continue . . . I felt a big pain in the moment, but then was better with the tape,” Halep said. “But, still, I couldn’t push anymore with my leg. My first serve was really bad after that.”
On Bouchard’s first match point, Halep hit an ace, but Bouchard did not appear ready to receive, and she went to speak with chair umpire Kader Nouni. But the point stood and Bouchard failed to clinch the match.
“When Simona tossed I heard someone scream in the crowd,” Bouchard said. “It had happened a few times already. This time I didn’t feel prepared to return, so I put my hand up. I felt like we should have replayed the point, but he said, no, it was her point. Just happy I kept my focus and didn’t get distracted.”
The tiebreaker was delayed briefly when the female spectator became ill. With Halep leading 3-2, Nouni jumped from his chair to alert security officials to the woman’s illness and told both players to go to their sideline chairs.
Temperatures on Centre Court were 25 C under sunny skies.
Following a delay of four minutes and after the woman was escorted from Centre Court by medical staff, the tiebreaker resumed. The woman returned to her seat later in the match after treatment.
Halep had never been past the third round at a Grand Slam until last year, when she made it to the fourth round at the U.S. Open. Then she reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in January, and got to the final at the French Open last month, losing to Maria Sharapova.
In the first semifinal, Kvitova, 24 and the only player born in the 1990s to have won a major title — here, three years ago— improved her record to 25-5 on the Wimbledon grass. She’s made at least the quarterfinals for five years in a row.
“I know how (it feels) when you hold the trophy so I really want to win my second title here and I will do everything I can,” Kvitova said.
She saved her best for last: Up to 6-6 in the tiebreaker, Safarova had won more total points, 40-39. From there, though, Kvitova won 31 of the last 48 points in the match.
Kvitova defeated Bouchard in their only meeting on hard courts.
“I find her as a very solid and talented player,” Kvitova said. “She is confident in her game right now. She’s moving very well . . . she’s playing aggressively.”
The men’s semifinals were scheduled for Friday, with top-seeded Novak Djokovic playing Grigor Dimitrov, and seven-time champion Roger Federer taking on Milos Raonic, who will try to join Bouchard as another Grand Slam finalist from Canada.