As tennis fans, there are countless moments throughout the year that get the spine tingling – none more so than finals day at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Indeed, there are few, if any, occasions in sport that match the grandeur, the history, the tradition of Wimbledon.
It was quite the moment, therefore, when Eugenie Bouchard of Montreal, Quebec strode onto Centre Court at the heart of SW19 as the first Canadian ever to reach a Grand Slam singles final on Saturday, July 5th, 2014.
Then aged just 20, Bouchard’s road to the championship match included bouts with two of the World’s Top 10 at the time, as well as an unlikely fourth-round matchup with Alize Cornet, seeded 25th, who had been expected to lose to top-seeded Serena Williams in the previous round.
Bouchard’s own third round opponent was no cake walk either. Germany’s Andrea Petkovic entered the tournament as its 20th seed and had a 3-0 record against the Canadian heading into their match, including a straight-sets victory at Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in Toronto in 2011.
Seeded 13th, Bouchard showed great maturity, despite her tender age, to sweep aside the German 6-3, 6-4 and book her clash with Cornet, who was riding a wave of confidence following that shock 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Williams.
In a much tighter affair, Bouchard emerged as a 7-6(5), 7-5 winner to advance to the quarter-finals.
Waiting for her in the last eight was another German, a future World No. 1, three-time Grand Slam champion and this tournament’s eighth seed: Angelique Kerber.
Playing on Court 1, Bouchard – who had claimed the Junior Wimbledon crown just two years earlier – was bidding to advance to her third Grand Slam semi-final of the year, having produced deep runs at the Australian Open and Roland Garros.
Showcasing her entire armoury of shots, the Canadian glided to a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Kerber to setup a semi-finals match against Romania’s Simona Halep, another future World No. 1 and Grand Slam champ.
Heading into the match against Halep, seeded third, Bouchard knew that a place in the final against the 2011 champion Petra Kvitova awaited should she be able to complete the job. But it mustn’t have been easy to shut those two previous Grand Slam semi-finals losses out of her mind.
Fortunately for her – this would be her day.
The first set was decided by a tiebreak. On set point, a powerful Bouchard forehand sent Halep running to the corner of the court and she could only send her return flying high into the sky – almost on a plate for the Canadian, who duly smashed an over-head, cross-court winner.
The second set was a little more routine. Bouchard claimed it 6-2 when a strong serve of hers could only be returned into the ground by Halep.
The Canadian lifted her hands into the air. Wimbledon finalist. Unbelievable.
A jam-packed, spectacular-looking Centre Court greeted Bouchard and Kvitova for the championship match. The grass was pristine.
Unfortunately for Bouchard, so was Kvitova’s performance on the day. The Czech played like a women possessed and the Canadian, who hadn’t dropped a single set at The Championships thus far, struggled to contain her.
As one commentator remarked: “She has all the answers today, Kvitova.”
Despite losing 6-3, 6-0, Bouchard represented Canada impeccably not just in the final, but at the tournament as a whole.
In her post-match interview with Sue Barker, she was gracious in defeat, saying: “First of all, I’d like to congratulate Petra. She played fantastic these two weeks. It was really tough for me today but I’m proud of how I’ve played this whole tournament.”
Bouchard’s run to the final opened the door to Canadians and unearthed the belief that they belonged at tennis’ top table. In fact, just two years later, Milos Raonic would also make a run to the finals at Wimbledon and in 2019 Bianca Andreescu would become the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam title at the US Open.
Inspirational to say the least.
(Feature photo: AP Photo/Sang Tan)