LONDON — Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard stumbled in her first two Grand Slam semifinal appearances this year.
The third time proved to be the charm Thursday at the All England Club.
Bouchard defeated Romania’s Simona Halep 7-6 (5), 6-2 to become the first Canadian to advance to the women’s singles final at Wimbledon. It was the latest achievement in what has already been a historic run for Bouchard at the sport’s most prestigious event.
“After doing well in the past few (Grand) Slams, I’ve been believing since the beginning of the tournament that I can do really well,” she said. “I’m just trying to take it one match at a time. It’s really important not to get ahead of ourselves.
“I totally feel like I belong, and I’m just so excited for the next match.”
The 20-year-old from Westmount, Que., has yet to lose a set in her six matches so far at Wimbledon. No Canadian had ever reached the women’s singles quarter-finals here in the Open era — never mind the final — before Bouchard.
There could be a Canadian in the men’s singles final as well. Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., will take on Switzerland’s Roger Federer on Friday with a berth in Sunday’s championship on the line.
This is uncharted territory for Canadian tennis.
Before this tournament, no Canadian had ever reached a men’s or women’s Grand Slam singles final, according to Tennis Canada. The last Canadian to reach a singles semifinal at a major was Robert Powell at Wimbledon in 1908, the organization said.
Montreal native Greg Rusedski reached the U.S. Open final in 1997 but he was representing Great Britain at that time.
The 13th-seeded Bouchard, who converted her sixth match point to complete the 94-minute victory, will next face sixth-seeded Petra Kvitova on Saturday.
“To get to my first Grand Slam final, it’s very exciting. It’s what I’ve worked so long for, you know,” Bouchard said. “So I’m just proud of myself for today’s effort.”
Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, beat fellow Czech left-hander Lucie Safarova 7-6 (6), 6-1 in the early semifinal.
Bouchard lost in the semifinals at the year’s two previous majors, the Australian Open and French Open.
She’s projected to rise to No. 7 — the highest ranking for a Canadian woman — by reaching the final and would go to No. 6 by winning the championship. Bouchard would also be the youngest Grand Slam champion since Maria Sharapova won the 2006 U.S. Open at age 19.
“I’ve put in a lot of hard work and it’s been kind of years in the making to me,” Bouchard said. “So I believe in myself and I expect good results. I’ve had a good start to the season, but I expect myself to do even better than that.”
In a semifinal that was delayed twice in the first set — first by a left ankle injury to Halep, and then when a woman spectator fell ill during the tiebreaker — Halep double-faulted on break point in the second set and then was broken again by Bouchard to give the Canadian a 4-1 lead.
The third-seeded Halep, who saved three match points in the seventh game and two more in the final game, appeared to be increasingly affected by her ankle injury and looked down at her feet several times after hitting shots.
“It was difficult to continue … I felt a big pain in the moment, but then was better with the tape,” Halep said. “But still, I couldn’t push anymore with my leg. My first serve was really bad after that.”
On Bouchard’s first match point, Halep hit an ace, but Bouchard did not appear ready to receive, and she went to speak with chair umpire Kader Nouni. But the point stood and Bouchard failed to clinch the match.
“When Simona tossed I heard someone scream in the crowd,” Bouchard said. “It had happened a few times already. This time I didn’t feel prepared to return, so I put my hand up. I felt like we should have replayed the point, but he said, no, it was her point. Just happy I kept my focus and didn’t get distracted.”
The tiebreaker was delayed briefly when the female spectator became ill. With Halep leading 3-2, Nouni jumped from his chair to alert security officials to the woman’s illness and told both players to go to their sideline chairs.
Temperatures on Centre Court were 25 degrees Celsius under sunny skies.
Following a delay of about five minutes and after the woman was escorted from the seating area by medical staff, the tiebreaker resumed. The woman returned to her seat later in the match after treatment.
Halep had never been past the third round at a Grand Slam until last year, when she made it to the fourth round at the U.S. Open. Then she reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in January, and got to the final at the French Open last month, losing to Sharapova.
In the first semifinal, Kvitova — the only women’s player born in the 1990s to have won a major title — improved her record to 25-5 on the Wimbledon grass. The 24-year-old has made at least the quarter-finals for five years in a row.
“I know how (it feels) when you hold the trophy so I really want to win my second title here and I will do everything I can,” Kvitova said.
She saved her best for last: Up to 6-all in the tiebreaker, Safarova had won more total points, 40-39. From there, though, Kvitova won 31 of the last 48 points in the match.
Kvitova beat Bouchard 6-3, 6-2 in their only previous meeting, a second-round match at the Rogers Cup in Toronto last August.
“I find her as a very solid and talented player,” Kvitova said. “She is confident in her game right now. She’s moving very well … she’s playing aggressively.”
After sealing the victory, Bouchard appeared pleased with her performance but kept the jubilation to a minimum.
“It’s not like a surprise to me — I expect good results like this,” she said. “So for me, I was like, ’OK good. It’s a step in the right direction.’ I get to play in the final and I still have another match so it’s not a full celebration yet.”
Bouchard is the only woman to have advanced to all three Grand Slam semifinals this year. The 2012 Wimbledon junior champion said she’s proud to be the first Canadian to make it this far in the tournament.
“It’s always exciting and special when I can make history,” she said. “My job is not done, I want to go another step further. So I’m going to stay focused and enjoy it after.”