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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Eugenie Bouchard Makes History with Wimbledon Girls Championship

Eugenie Bouchard Wins Wimbledon Girls Title,
Canada's First Junior Slam Singles Champion

©Colette Lewis 2012--

No Canadian junior, boy or girl, had ever won a grand slam singles title,  until Saturday, when Eugenie Bouchard put her name on the list of champions with a convincing 6-2, 6-2 win over Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.

Playing in front of a Court 1 crowd of some 7,000 fans, who waited 30 minutes beyond the 1:00 p.m. start time for yet another rain shower to pass, No. 5 seed Bouchard showed absolutely no sign of nerves in her first junior slam singles final. Svitolina, the 2010 Roland Garros girls champion, had the edge in experience, but she got off to a rocky start, double faulting to lose the first game.

Svitolina, seeded third, got the break back, but immediately dropped serve again, with another double fault at deuce and a return winner by Bouchard putting her in control again.

Serving at 3-2 to consolidate the break, Bouchard was down 0-15, when her second serve was called out. Using the challenge system that is available on Court 1, Bouchard asked for a review, which showed the serve as clearly good, and with another first serve, she went on to win the point, making it 15-15, rather than the 0-30 it would have been otherwise.

It wasn't her first challenge--she had played in the WTA Rogers Cup tournament and made a challenge there-but it was her first successful challenge, and said afterward she was not about to challenge again and ruin her perfect record. After holding for 4-2, Bouchard continued to take advantage of Svitolina's poor serving, and broke her again with a forehand return winner to make it 5-2. After taking the opening set with a routine hold, Bouchard didn't let herself think ahead, even when she took the opening game of the second set with a break of Svitolina.

"I felt surprisingly calm," said Bouchard, who kept her focus on the court, not on the intimidating surroundings. "I was happy with myself for that.  But I felt like I was playing really well.  So I was just staying calm and positive,  focusing on one point at a time, not thinking about anything else. That really helped me."

Bouchard didn't surrender her 2-0 lead in the second set this time, serving well and never facing another break point. Whenever Svitolina hit a short ball, Bouchard put it away, and Svitolina was unable to lift her game to match the 18-year-old Canadian.

With the 17-year-old Svitolina serving down 2-4, Bouchard really stepped up the pressure. Without giving Svitolina any time to extend the rallies and find her rhythm, Bouchard hit two return winners to give herself two break points and with an emphatic forehand, she had a 5-2 lead and was serving for the championship. Four points later, it was over, with Svitolina hitting a forehand wide to give Bouchard the 6-2, 6-2 victory.

"I still wasn't thinking about it, so when match point happened I was a little bit surprised," said Bouchard, who attributed her lack of reaction to her focus. "I didn't even scream.  I couldn't even like ‑‑ I was like, Oh, my God, it's over, but I was really happy."

When Bouchard was called upon to take the champion's lap with 1969 Ladies Champion Ann Jones of Great Britain, she looked almost embarrassed by the attention and the applause. When asked about that sheepish look, Bouchard promised she would get better at it with more practice.

Bouchard has been working part-time with Natalie Tauziat of France, who reached the ladies final here in 1998, and was playing in the Ladies Invitational doubles event throughout the week.

"It's good to be able to work with her," Bouchard said. "It's good because she's been there. Obviously she got to 3 in the world. She knows exactly what I'm going through on court, and she helps me mentally with that."

Svitolina was disappointed with her performance.

"I was playing not so good today, didn't show my game and what I can do," Svitolina said. "I didn't feel any shot which I was playing. She was playing good, and I think it was just the situation that I was playing bad and she was playing well."

Svitolina didn't think the large crowd and the Court 1 atmosphere had anything to do with her performance. 

"I played Fed Cup in Ukraine, so there was a lot of people," said Svitolina, who lost to Wimbledon's newest ladies champion Serena Williams 6-2, 6-1, and to Christina McHale 7-5, 6-3 in the USA's 5-0 win on clay in Ukraine in April. "Here is different, though still a lot of people, and I was trying to show my game. But it was a good match, good experience for later."

Bouchard, who won the Wimbledon girls doubles title last year with Grace Min, had to play her semifinal doubles match after her singles final, but she and Taylor Townsend, the top seeds, were able to advance, beating No. 4 seeds Sachia Vickery of the US and Francoise Abanda of Canada 7-6(4), 7-5. 

They will play No. 7 seeds Belinda Bencic of Switzerland and Ana Konjuh of Croatia, who surprised Svitolina and her partner Daria Gavrilova of Russia, the No. 2 seeds, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.

Bouchard and Townsend, who won the girls doubles title this year at the Australian juniors with Gabby Andrews, began playing together only at this year's French Open, but reached the semifinals there and won last week's Grade 1 together at Roehampton.

"I actually didn't know Genie very well," Townsend said. "We hit a few times in Australia, but I really didn't know her. The French was the first time we played and we made semis, which wasn't bad at all. But being able to play with her in Roehampton was just another good opportunity to establish the things we like to do and get more comfortable with each other, both on and off the court. We've gotten to know each other really well and that's nice. I've made a new friend."

Despite the friendship, there's a rivalry brewing for the top spot in the ITF Junior rankings, but the ITF says Townsend is assured of maintaining the number one spot despite Bouchard's singles championship.

The boys doubles final will feature French Open champions Nick Kyrgios and Andrew Harris of Australia, the No. 4 seeds, against the unseeded Italian pair of Matteo Donati and Pietro Liccardi. Kyrgios and Harris downed the sixth-seed team of Juan Galarza and Mateo Martinez of Argentina 6-2, 6-1, while Donati and Liccardi beat Evan Hoyt of Great Britain and Wayne Montgomery of South Africa, who were unseeded, 7-6(4), 7-6(5). That match was interrupted by a shower for nearly an hour, the same shower that delayed the start of the girls singles championship.

In the boys final, scheduled for 1 p.m. on Court 1, Filip Peliwo of Canada is hoping to join Bouchard as a junior slam champion, while Luke Saville of Australia is setting his sights on a third junior slam title and a second straight Wimbledon boys championship.

The girls doubles final is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. on Show Court 18, with the boys doubles final scheduled as the third match on Court 1.

For complete draws, see the Wimbledon website.