Observers of Eugenie Bouchard at Wimbledon seem to be concerned that she’s not surprised at her success and that she’s not enjoying the moment and leaping with delight as you might expect a 20-year-old who has just guaranteed herself more than $1.3-million in prize money, win or lose in the women’s final.
Because there’s no question Bouchard is not surprised at her success, as she carefully explains every time she faces these questions.
She comes in expecting herself to do well and she’s not yet over the moon because she hasn’t reached her goal which is to win a Grand Slam event.
And if you pressed her, the goal isn’t to win a Grand Slam, but rather, lots and lots of Slam titles.
If you asked Canada’s first Grand Slam finalist in history about more than whether she thinks Justin Bieber would be invited into the Royal Box if he showed up, you’d be more likely to learn she’s surprised she hasn’t really had to be at her best to get this far.
After all this time setting to the Grand Slam final and title as the pinnacle of where she wanted to go, she finds herself in a final without ever having to produce at her top level consistently.
In her heart of hearts, she knows she’s worked for it but so have the other players. It’s almost been ridiculously easy for her, such has been her ability to summon her best right when she needs it and not a moment before. She’s been good, she’s been solid, but her best over an extended period simply has not been demanded, nor has it been produced
Each time you think she will be pressed to be her best at all times or be ousted, her opponent stubs her toe as Simona Halep did Thursday after being up 4-2 in the first set tie breaker and appearing on her way to taking a significant lead in the match.
It was then Bouchard had to trot out her best. Halep wobbled and then our Canadian superstar was allowed to get away with lots of loose points in the second set as the Romanian, who has had such a consistent run herself this season, caved at the prospect of having to overcome Bouchard’s best, summoned on demand.
In winning every set she’s played so far, Bouchard’s toughest test probably came in the round of 16 against Alize Cornet of France when she needed to be extremely attentive and aggressive to win both sets.
After that she murdered Angelique Kerber’s second serve with some ease and then put so much pressure on Halep simply by hitting the ball from where she does, so very early, particularly on the return of serve. And it’s her aggressive positioning and ability to take the ball on the rise that is pushing opponents out of their comfort zone.
In most of her matches, Bouchard is hitting her return inside the baseline over 95 per cent of the time and that carries over to even more aggression as the point progresses.
Thursday she hit just 8 per cent of her shots off the ground two steps beyond the baseline and 41 per cent inside the baseline. And when she got to the net against Halep, she lost just one point. It’s this ability to be aggressive which figures to get the biggest test Saturday when she plays 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the Czech with a lefty serve far bigger than the Kerber pop-gun she murdered in the quarters.
It is a serve Kvitova hopes will either push Bouchard back on the return and/or produce more return errors.
The two have played just once before, last summer when Bouchard was a much lesser player, with Kvitova winning 6-2, 6-3 and the Canadian serving like a drunk, getting just 38 per cent of her first serves in and committing eight double faults on her way out, something which is not likely to be repeated Saturday.
And for this reason, along with the fact Kvitova has won the tournament before, the bookmakers will make Kvitova the favourite, with Chris Evert the only member of the ESPN broadcast crew picking Bouchard, an underdog role to which she has come to welcome.
“I’m not looking forward to the result of the match, I’m looking forward to playing the match, first and foremost,” said Bouchard when asked at the post-match press conference whether she’s apt to go crazy if she should win Saturday. “My job is not done. I want to go another step further so I’m going to stay focused and enjoy it after.”
All of Canada hopes she gets that moment of enjoyment.
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