Eugenie Bouchard is one cool cat. This is a 20-year-old with ice in her veins and she has shown us all over the last week and a half that she is going to be a power in the women’s game for a time to come.
Now don’t hurry to write off Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova – they will be back and booming come the US Open, I’m sure – and then still going strong in the other semi-final is Petra Kvitova, a winner here three years back, so this is not a changing of the guard. But it sure is swelling the ranks of those guards and that is going to make the women’s game great to watch over the next couple of years.
Simona Halep is still just 22 and then there’s Madison Keys, who didn’t have a great time here but is only 19 and a real live talent. So there is going to be real depth to the women’s game and that is good for the sport. But let’s deal with the here and now – and right now I like the look of Bouchard.
She has not dropped a set to get to Centre Court this afternoon. Halep, though, has dropped only one of her own. These are the two form players of the year, both making it into the danger zone of the Slams.
Bouchard has not gone beyond the semi-final but the way she has played here says to me she can do it. She is an all-rounder, stands strong on the base line and is not afraid to mix her game up a little on the grass. She doesn’t come in much but picked her moments in the quarter-final to stride towards the net and pinch a point or two.
I like the way she manages her game but it will be truly tested by Halep this afternoon on Centre Court. I see a couple of key areas. The first is to do with age and the fact that these are a couple of girls in the early stages of their careers. Halep had got to a Slam final before and Bouchard has played in a couple of semis but Centre Court at Wimbledon, semi-final day, that is going to be one hell of a test of their nerves. Can they cope with the occasion? Can they keep their game together?
Bouchard is coached by Nick Saviano out in Florida. Nick and I go way back, he was once a pupil of mine, and I have to say huge congratulations to him for the work he has done with Bouchard. Now one of the things Nick likes to say to Bouchard is “play the point, not the scoreboard”. Bouchard said that was in her mind when she faced four break points early in her quarter-final against Angelique Kerber. She kept cool and played each point. If she can do that then she will be in a good place.
I see this being a contest between Bouchard’s firepower, her big serve and that swinging forehand that forces an opponent deep, and Halep’s amazing ability to run down ball after ball. North, south, east or west, it doesn’t matter where the ball goes Halep will chase it down – like an old wild west sheriff in pursuit of a gunslinger. She is one of the best retrievers around and she will look to hustle and hurry Bouchard off the court. Halep has a good serve of her own, quicker than you would imagine for someone of her size. Both averaged 99mph in their quarters and both had a quickest of 107mph. That’s a weapon.
What Bouchard does well is to follow her serve up with that forehand and her ability to hit the ball low over the net. Halep will send it back plenty of times – this is a woman who never knows when she is beaten. She was 3-0 and 4-1 down to Sabine Lisicki, a player who can blast you off court, but never stopped running. She has strong belief in her own game. I think this match is just too close to call and, hey, who can blame me for sitting on the fence for this one after what has happened in this Wimbledon?
Thursday’s big game: Bouchard v Halep
Eugenie Bouchard/Simona Halep
Canadian Nationality Romanian
20 Age 22
Montreal, Canada Residence Constanta, Romaina
5ft 10in Height 5ft 6in
Right-handed Plays Right-handed
13 World ranking 3
1 Career titles 7
$1.74m Prize-money $4.56m
7-1 Wimbledon record 7-3
Semi-final (2014) Wimbledon best Semi-final (2014)
Won 0 Head-to-head Won 1
Bollettieri’s prediction Too close to call
Coaching report: You’d better believe it – Dimitrov is the real deal
I’ve been rubbing my eyes. Is this Wimbledon fact or fiction? It is turning into one hell of a drama, with more twists and turns than any dime novelist has ever come up with. What a tournament – and who has any idea how it will all end on Sunday?
I have to tip my cap to Johnny McEnroe about what happened today. I have said all along that this boy Grigor Dimitrov is going to be very good – I said if I could pick one player to coach today it would be him – but I also thought he wasn’t quite ready. In truth, I thought he needed another year to get to the level when he is going to be troubling guys at the business end of Slams. Johnny Mac said he was ready now, and boy was he right.
Dimitrov is good enough to take on anybody here – if he can do that to Andy Murray then he can worry any man still standing. The big thing for a guy like this, at this stage of his career, is to get everything that happened today out of his mind and get all his focus on Friday’s semi-final. That is not easy to do – Angelique Kerber looked like she had left it all out on Centre Court to bring down Maria Sharapova when she crashed out to Eugenie Bouchard over on No 1 Court. Dimitrov could do worse than have a word with Sharapova – a woman who knows how to win.
He just went at Murray and, on the day, Murray could not deal with it. This was a bad day at the office for last year’s champion. They happen and what a player and his team have to do is get together, be honest with each other and work damn hard to get back on track and get these youngsters off his back.