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By Chris Oddo | Wednesday, July 2, 2014

 
halep bouchard wimbledon semifinals

Eugenie Bouchard and Simona Halep each continued their ascent into tennis's elite with straight-sets victories on Day 9.

Photo Source: AP

Should we start expecting this Grand Slam goodness from Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard on a consistent basis? Apparently so.

More: Dimitrov Knocks off Defending Champ Murray in Straight Sets

Both Halep and Bouchard—22 and 20 years old respectively—reached their first career Wimbledon semifinals on Wednesday in impressive fashion, as Halep trounced Sabine Lisicki by winning the last 11 games en route to a 6-4, 6-0 victory, and Bouchard confidently eased past Germany’s Angelique Kerber, 6-3, 6-4.

The victory reinforces what most tennis fans already have come to realize in 2014: Not only are Bouchard and Halep rising stars with incredible potential—they have, undeniably, arrived.




Halep, the runner-up at Roland Garros last month, can ascend to No 2 in the world rankings with a victory in her semifinal with Bouchard, while Bouchard, the only WTA player to reach the semifinals at all three Grand Slams this year, will enter the top ten for the first time next week.

Each is a tour-level best 15-2 at the majors this year, and each is the first woman from her country to have ever reached this far at Wimbledon.

Bouchard, confident and poised, has come to expect victories like this at the Grand Slam level. “It’s a normal kind of evolution of things, as the great champions get older the newer ones come in,” she said on Wednesday in her trademark monotone after notching her fifth career top 10 win over Kerber.

With all but one of the top five seeds at Wimbledon already knocked out of the draw, the aggressive Montreal native believes that the opportunity is now for her to break through and go all the way. “I’m excited to be in the semis,” 
Bouchard said, “but of course, never satisfied.”

In order to break new ground, Bouchard will have to improve upon her 0-2 record in Grand Slam semifinals. It’s about the only blip on her otherwise impeccable ledger in 2014. The 20-year-old, ranked No. 66 at Wimbledon last year, has notched her first career title, and now climbed inside the top ten. But she’s driven, and refreshingly mature for her age. When she speaks it’s clear that she’s envisaging bigger things in the not too distant future for herself.

“I think I played some great players when I’ve lost in the semis,” she said. “You don’t win every single time.”

Halep seems a little bit more surprised by her success than Bouchard. The 22-year-old just keeps it simple and lets her tennis do the talking. “I’m looking forward just to play good tennis and to try my best on court,” said Halep in press. “I believe that I can win [against Bouchard] but I expect a tough match. She’s a great player and she’s playing really well.”




The two trailblazers will meet for the second time to decide who is the better player (at least for the week) on Thursday. Halep won their only previous meeting in three sets at Indian Wells this year, but honestly, March feels like eons ago.

A lot has transpired since then. Halep, perpetually under the radar and underhyped, has reached her first Grand Slam final, and nearly upset Maria Sharapova in what was considered by many to be the best French Open final in a decade. Her diverse, all-court game is revered by tennis technicians, and what she may lack in power she more than makes up for in timing, tactics and tennis IQ.

Though she is only playing her fourth career grass-court event, Bouchard has emerged as a serious threat on the surface. Not only is she powerful, she’s gritty, determined and pretty much unflappable under pressure. The way she has handled the big moments on the game's biggest stages speaks volumes about her legitimacy as a future star of the sport.

Whatever happens in Thursday's second semifinal at Wimbledon, the future has arrived on the WTA Tour, and it looks very promising.

“I think her style is dangerous on grass, because she’s playing very flat and she stays very close to the baseline, so she’s playing fast,” said Halep. “But I play close to the baseline as well, and I’m aggressive, so we’ll see tomorrow.”


 

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