Wimbledon: Halep, Bouchard offer glimpse of future in semis
The women's semi-finals at Wimbledon on Thursday will provide a glimpse into the future of the women's game and a nod to its recent past.
Rising stars Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard will meet in one semi-final after they impressed in quarter-final victories on Wednesday, while Czech pair Lucie Safarova and Petra Kvitova complete the contrasting semi-final line-up.
With only one grand slam title between the quartet, there might be some raised eyebrows on Center Court, yet it is the presence of veterans Safarova and Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, that is perhaps most surprising.
Romanian Halep and Canada's Bouchard have been in sparkling form and are the only players to have reached at least the last eight of all three grand slams so far in 2014.
They are also the only women from Romania and Canada to make it this far at Wimbledon.
Germany's Sabine Lisicki returns to Romania's Simona Halep during their women's singles quarter-final match on day nine of the 2014 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 2, 2014. Photo: AFP
Romania's Simona Halep returns to Germany's Sabine Lisicki during their women's singles quarter-final match on day nine of the 2014 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 2, 2014. Photo: AFP
Simona Halep of Romania reacts after defeating Sabine Lisicki of Germany in their women's singles quarter-final tennis match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in London July 2, 2014. Photo: Reuters
However, sixth-seeded Kvitova has not been in a grand slam semi-final since the 2012 French Open, and 23rd seed Safarova will be making her first ever grand slam semi-final appearance at the 37th attempt.
Halep, the third seed, came back from losing the first three games of the match to trounce last year's runner-up Sabine Lisicki 6-4 6-0 and continue the great championship form that has seen her record career-best results in consecutive grand slams.
Not to be outdone, 13th seed Bouchard overcame her ninth-seeded opponent Angelique Kerber - who shocked Center Court with a victory over Maria Sharapova on Tuesday - 6-3 6-4.
The 20-year-old's victory meant she became the only woman on the tour to make the last four at all three grand slam events so far this year.
"I am excited (but) she is a very good player so I am definitely ready for another tough match," Bouchard told the BBC of her challenge against Halep, who is the highest seed left in the draw.
"I am so pleased to reach the semi-finals again but I want to go one step further this time around."
Germany's Angelique Kerber returns to Canada's Eugenie Bouchard during their women's singles quarter-final match on day nine of the 2014 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 2, 2014. Photo: AFP
Canada's Eugenie Bouchard celebrates winning her women's singles quarter-final match against Germany's Angelique Kerber on day nine of the 2014 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 2, 2014. Photo: AFP
While considered bright talents, not many would have predicted the rapid rise of both Halep and Bouchard this year.
World No.6 Kvitova is trying to get back to the top of the game after winning Wimbledon as a 21-year-old.
She beat another Czech opponent, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, 6-1 7-5 in the quarter-finals on Tuesday. Safarova, 27, beat Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-3 6-1.
Kvitova and Safarova met at Eastbourne, the Wimbledon warm-up tournament, last month, with Kvitova edging a three-setter.
"It's going to be my third match against a Czech girl during Wimbledon, which is unusual," Kvitova said.
"We played last time in Eastbourne. It was a big fight until the end. I'm expecting a tough battle again."
Eugenie Bouchard vs Angelique Kerber Quarter-Finals
- Reuters, ESPN, YouTube