Canadians Raonic, Bouchard advance to Wimbledon semifinals

First there was Canada’s Davis Cup semifinal appearance last fall. Next came Eugenie Bouchard’s trip to the final four at the Australian Open early this year. Now Bouchard is getting ready to play in her third straight Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and this time she will be joined there by fellow Canadian Milos Raonic. It’s the most significant achievement yet in the country’s rise as a tennis power as no two Canadians have ever advanced this far at one major.

LONDON — First there was Canada’s Davis Cup semifinal appearance last fall. Next came Eugenie Bouchard’s trip to the final four at the Australian Open early this year.

Now Bouchard is getting ready to play in her third straight Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and this time she will be joined there by fellow Canadian Milos Raonic. It’s the most significant achievement yet in the country’s rise as a tennis power as no two Canadians have ever advanced this far at one major.

“I’m sure that the outbreak and the response back home is of much more magnitude than anything else that’s happened or that’s resonated,” Raonic said Wednesday after defeating Australian wild card Nick Kyrgios 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (4) to advance to his first career Grand Slam semifinal.

“I think not only (Bouchard) in the last two Slams, but us doing it at the same time here is bigger than anything we’ve done in Davis Cup, anything we’ve done at Fed Cup. It has a bigger audience, a bigger meaning, a bigger recognition.”

Bouchard advanced to her third straight major semifinal by defeating Germany’s Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-4. The result is expected to move her into eighth on the WTA rankings list Monday, equalling the Canadian-best ranking held by Carling Bassett-Seguso.

“I’m excited to be in the semis. But, of course, I’m never satisfied, so I definitely want to go a step further, or as far as I can,” Bouchard said.

Raonic, a 23-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., is in uncharted territory at Wimbledon, having only reached the second round at three previous appearances at the All England Club.

“I’ve always wanted to play well here, to change my luck around like this is pretty special. It’s another step forward,” Raonic said.

“My goal is to be the best in the world and this is one of the steps you have to take toward that goal It’s what I dream of — achieving on the big stage.”

Bouchard and Raonic have already advanced farther than any Canadian before them at Wimbledon since the Open era started in 1968. Both have their work cut out for them in the semifinals.

Raonic has not beaten his semifinal opponent, seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer, in four career matches, including a three-set Federer win at a 2012 grass-court event in Halle, Germany.

Their only Grand Slam matchup was at the fourth round of the 2013 Australian Open, where Federer won in straight sets.

“This will be another big challenge for me, one that I’ll relish,” Raonic said. “I want to put myself out there in these positions. I’ll give my all and we’ll see what happens.”

Federer moved on to the semifinal with a 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-4 win over fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka.

Bouchard has less history with her opponent, Romania’s Simona Halep, who crushed 2013 Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki 6-4, 6-0 on Wednesday.

The Romanian won their only meeting, on hardcourt at Indian Wells last March. But fourth-ranked Halep, like Bouchard, is a rising star. She advanced to the final at the French Open before losing an entertaining match to champion Maria Sharapova.

“She’s a good player and I’m ready for another tough match,” Bouchard said of Halep.

“It’s not every day you can walk out on Centre Court and play the semis of a slam,” added Bouchard. “That’s the most important thing for me, is to really enjoy it. I’m going to try, give it my best, leave everything on the court, and we’ll see what happens.”

Bassett-Seguso will be watching closely.

“I’m telling you she’s going to number one,” she told The Canadian Press in an interview. “I watched her play. I don’t watch too much women’s tennis to be honest with you. I watched that match and I was just blown away.”

The other women’s semifinal will feature Czechs Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova.

Bouchard struggled to close out her win over Kerber, whom she had beaten a month ago on clay at the French Open.

She finally advanced after 72 minutes on her first match point, which she set up with a down-the-line winner followed a point later by a Kerber backhand error.

“I’m looking forward to try to play a little bit like I played today,” Bouchard said. “I thought I was pretty solid out there and playing the right way on the grass. So that’s going to be a key.”

Bouchard saved two break points in the final game and ended with three breaks of serve from 13 chances. She had 29 winners and 20 unforced errors.

“In the last game, I was just trying to stay in the moment,” said Bouchard, now 7-1 at Wimbledon. “I was not thinking ahead. That’s something I’ve been working on.

“I had a few bad errors in that game but I also hit some aggressive shots, that’s just my game.”

Bouchard, named for a British royal, played in front of Britain’s Prince William and wife Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.

The other men’s semifinal will pit Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov against top seed Novak Djokovic.

Dimitrov ousted defending champion Andy Murray 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-2 to advance, while Djokovic needed five sets to put away Croatia’s Marin Cilic 6-1, 3-6, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-2.

Raonic won a serving duel with Krygios, who defeated second-seed Rafael Nadal in the fourth round. Raonic put Kyrgios away with an ace on fourth match point in the fourth-set tiebreaker.

“It’s great to have this kind of a win, it’s another first for me,” said Raonic.

Federer, who lost in the second round here last year, is through to the semis for the ninth time at Wimbledon. He’s gone on to win the title in all those years except for 2008, when he lost to Nadal in the final.

“Last year was such a disappointment,” Federer said. “I was very deflated leaving Wimbledon on that note. It’s good to be back in the semis and having a chance to go a step or two further.”

Murray fell flat while Dimitrov lived up to his promise on the biggest stage in the game.

“To win any tournament back-to-back, let alone back-to-back on a surface like this which sometimes rests on a few points in a set, it’s not always going to go your way,” Murray said. “Grass is a tough surface to do it on, but I didn’t feel like that had any bearing on my outcome.”

In men’s doubles, Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil and American Jack Sock reached the quarter-finals with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3), 6-4 win over Croatian Mate Pavic and Andre Sa of Brazil.

Toronto’s Daniel Nestor and French partner Kristina Mladenovic advanced to the mixed doubles quarter-finals over Australians John Peers and Ashleigh Barty 7-6 (4), 6-3.

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