Wimbledon women's semis preview: Simona Halep vs. Eugenie Bouchard
LONDON -- The WTA's youth movement has arrived. No. 3 Simona Halep will face No. 13 Eugenie Bouchard in the semifinals of Wimbledon on Thursday. The match is a highly anticipated clash between two of the game's young stars who have grabbed headlines all year with their stellar, consistent play at Grand Slam tournaments.
Halep, 22, the highest seed remaining, made her first major final at the French Open last month. Bouchard, 20, is into her third straight Slam semifinal, having lost to the eventual champion at both the Australian Open and French Open. The two have played just once, a 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 victory for Halep at the BNP Paribas Open in March.
Here's the tale of the tape:
Hometown: Constanta, Romania -- a port city on the Black Sea.
Coach: Wim Fissette -- Kim Clijsters' former coach. The two paired up during the offseason.
Style of play: Intelligent aggression. Halep isn't tall or gifted with power, but it's death by a thousand paper cuts for opponents. At her best, Halep keeps her position on the baseline and opens up the court by putting the ball in perfect positions to force her foe to move. No one is better at winning a point with four strokes than Halep.
Best surface: Clay. She's won two titles and made the French Open final.
Biggest win: En route to her biggest title, Halep, then ranked No. 10, beat No. 7 Sara Errani, No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 9 Angelique Kerber -- all in straight sets -- to win the Qatar Open in February.
Why she'll win: Halep is a tactical genius and she reads the game well. Bouchard hasn't dropped in her first five matches, but Halep has enough variety and know-how to crack the code. If she can get Bouchard on the run and not let her dictate play from the middle of the court, Halep should move through.
In her own words: "Yes, I can handle the pressure. I don't feel pressure because I have experience from the Australian Open quarterfinals and the French Open finals. I feel very relaxed now. I'm focused, as well. I just want to enjoy every match. I don't want to think that tomorrow I play semifinal. I just want to keep my body very cool [and] think that it's the first round."
What Bouchard said about Halep: "We had a good match at Indian Wells. I felt like I had chances, was really close, and just lost that one. I learned a little bit about her game. She's playing really well. She can change direction really well on the court."
Random fact: When she returned home after the French Open, a red carpet was rolled out on the tarmac to greet her.
On-court quirk: Regardless of the scoreline, Halep will show flashes of anger when she makes the wrong shot selection. Ever the perfectionist.
Hometown: Westmount, Quebec
Coach: Nick Saviano. The American coach owns an academy in Florida and has coached Sloane Stephens and Laura Robson.
Style of play: Aggressive. The Wall Street Journal's Tom Perrotta described Bouchard's game perfectly: She smothers you. She stands on or inside the baseline and takes the ball incredibly early, taking time away from her opponents until she's opened up the court for a winner. Her game doesn't have the flair or fluidity of Halep's, but you can see some hockey influence in the Canadian's tennis. It is in-your-face, unrelenting and unapologetic.
Best surface: Grass. She won her only junior Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2012, and her first big win came here last year when she knocked out Ana Ivanovic on Centre Court.
Biggest win: She won her first title last month on clay at an International-level tournament in Nuremberg, Germany. On paper, her best match win was over No. 8 Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the Family Circule Cup quarterfinals in April. But her 7-6 (4), 2-6, 7-5 win over No. 14 Carla Suarez Navarro in the French Open quarterfinals was everything you needed to know about Bouchard's grit. She trailed in both the first and third sets and came back to win.
Why she'll win: Bouchard doesn't have trouble with nerves, and in a sport in which any sliver of doubt can affect your swing, that matters. She's shown all year that she can deliver in the tight moments. On grass, where players don't have much time to think, Bouchard's clear game plan -- hit big, hit early, hit often -- pays off. Her game is more suited to grass than Halep's.
In her own words: "My mental side has improved over the last few years. Tennis is very mental, so that's an important part of it. I really try to have blinders on and really focus throughout the whole match."
What Halep said about Bouchard: "Her style, it's dangerous on grass because she's playing very flat [with her groundstrokes]. She stays very close to the baseline, so she's playing fast. But I play, as well, close to the baseline and I'm aggressive. So we'll see. But I expect very tough match because she's a good player."
Random fact: Bouchard and her three siblings -- twin sister Beatrice, Charlotte and William -- are named after British royalty. Asked if she has princess-like tendencies, she said yes. "My fitness trainer carries my tennis bag around. But that's so I don't get tired because I want to save all my energy for the match."
On-court quirk: Her fans, known as the "Genie Army," throw stuffed animals to her after matches.
Halep in three sets.