Eugenie Bouchard looks to make Canadian tennis history at Wimbledon
Going for a Grand Slam win in just her 6th appearance
Eugenie Bouchard has already made history as the only Canadian tennis player to reach a Grand Slam singles final, and she'll look to join the rarefied group of Wimbledon champions on Saturday.
Over the past 40 years, only 16 women have been crowned singles champion at All England Club, representing just eight countries.
Bouchard can put Canada on that list, and perhaps herald a new era in the women's game, in the first Grand Slam final between players born in the 1990s.
Bouchard told CBC News on Thursday she's humbled if people think she's a trailblazer.
"I'm glad that people [in Canada] are getting interested in tennis … if little kids are inspired to play because of me I think that's the greatest honour. I hope tennis can grow as a sport in our country."
Bouchard expects her toughest battle
The 20-year-old Bouchard heads into the final against Petra Kvitova having not dropped a set in the tournament. She defeated top 10 seeds Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep in her last two matches to put herself on the brink of history.
Legend and current commentator Chris Evert has been among those who believe it's just a matter of time for Bouchard, due to her all-around game and steely determination when faced with adversity.
The Westmount, Que., native won the Wimbledon girls title just two years ago, and in her first appearance at the tournament as a pro last year, got a taste of the atmosphere of Centre Court in a win over Ana Ivanovic before bowing out in the third round.
Bouchard has reached the final of a major in just her sixth attempt, one better than modern greats Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. The only active player to do better was Venus Williams, a finalist in her third Slam appearance in 1997.
"It's the Wimbledon final so I'm going to try and enjoy it, first of all, but I think it'll be my toughest match yet and I have to be ready for a big challenge," Bouchard said.
Bouchard, seeded 13th, is likely right about that.
While she's the only person on either tour to reach at least the semifinals in all three Grand Slam tournaments this year, there's also been a dash of good fortune involved.
She hasn't had to face the likes of top players Serena, Victoria Azarenka or Aggy Radwanska, and couldn't quite take the measure of Li Na or Sharapova at the Australian and French Open semis.
Standing in her way
Kvitova was not much older than Bouchard, at 21, when in 2011 she surprised some observers by downing Sharapova in straight sets to capture the Wimbledon title.
She became the third woman from the Czech Republic to win at Wimbledon, joining her idol Martina Navratilova and Jana Novotna, but a few weeks later at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, seemed a bit shell-shocked at her new found status when interviewed by CBCSports.ca, calling the increased attention "quite different."
The six-foot Kvitova was sent out in the first round of her very next major, but has gradually adjusted to the expectations of being a top player, staying in the top 10 despite not reaching another Slam final until now.
Through the fortnight, the left-hander has dropped just one set, and she leads the women's tournament in aces.
Kvitova won the lone previous matchup against Bouchard, a 6-3, 6-2 win last year in Toronto.
Stepping onto Centre Court to play the championship has been known to induce jitters for both first-time participants and even past winners. Six of the last seven finals have been decided in straight sets, and it's been about a decade since a three-set match went down to the wire.
If she can conquer the nerves and prevail, Bouchard will jump to sixth in the women's rankings on Monday. She'll be seventh if she loses Saturday.
Later in the day, Vasek Pospisil of Vancouver and his American partner Jack Sock will go for their first major title in men's doubles against Bob and Mike Bryan, the U.S. twins who'll be going for their 16th Grand Slam win.