Bouchard faces third seed Simona Halep on Thursday while Raonic takes on seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer on Friday.
LONDON—The semifinals of the Championships at Wimbledon, this most British of tournaments, are officially one quarter Canadian, and SW19 is turning into Canada’s Wonderland.
With convincing wins here Wednesday — on the same court, hours apart — Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic became the first Canadian woman and first Canadian man to make the semifinals at the All England Club in the Open era.
For Raonic, the progression was a revelation. He recalled a time when he’d have been pleased to have a top 50 career. That has changed.
“I wasn’t the best junior,” he said. “In three Grand Slam tries I won one match here as a junior. A lot of things have changed for me. I’ve created a lot of possibilities and opened a lot of doors for myself.
“I worked,” Raonic said. “Now my ambition lies . . . to be the best. If you asked me that five years ago, six years ago, I don’t think I could have given you that same answer.”
Now, he is focused on defeating Roger Federer, a nine-time semifinalist and seven-time champion, a legendary player that he has never beaten. But when he walks onto Centre Court on Friday, Raonic says he won’t think about that. Facing Federer is simply another obstacle to overcome.
“I’m going to step out there and I’m not playing the seven-time Wimbledon champion. I’m not playing a 32-year-old man. I’m not playing a father of two sets of twins, which is a very low possibility I bet to do,” he grinned.
“I’m playing a guy that is standing in my way of what I want to achieve, and I’ve got to focus on everything that’s there, on the situation, how best to deal with it to give myself the best possibilities to achieve what I want.”
If the Raonic from five or six years ago would be surprised to see himself in a Slam semi, the Bouchard from five or six years ago would give a shrug. It’s what she expected from herself, and it’s clear that she wants far more than simply a third-straight final four appearance in a Grand Slam tournament.
“Tennis is something I’ve played for 15 years now,” Bouchard said. “I’ve put in a lot of hard work on the court. So results that come for me, in the back of my mind I expected them because I’ve put in so much time and effort. I have that true belief that I deserve these results when I get them.”
On a hot and sunny Wednesday, Canada Day redux, Bouchard started things on Court One with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Angelique Kerber; Raonic finished them on the same grass as dusk fell with his 39th ace, securing a 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (4) win over Australia’s Nick Kyrgios.
The ebullient Kyrgios, a wild-card entry who had upset No. 2 Rafael Nadal, and No. 13 seed Richard Gasquet, was rapidly turning into the best story at this tournament.
No more. Kelly Murumets, the president and CEO of Tennis Canada, was only supposed to fly to London on Wednesday, and was scheduled to land early Thursday morning. But as Raonic and Bouchard blew into the quarters, her staff looked at the schedule, looked at their boss, and said: get on that plane.
So with an hour to shower, pack, and get a car to the airport, Murumets did, arriving in time to see both matches. “Worth it,” Murumets grinned, after watching Raonic win. “It is fantastic. I am just pinching myself.”
“This,” she said, “will inspire a whole new generation of tennis players in our country.”
Just then, Raonic’s father, Dusan, walked up. He said he had been calm all the way through the match, because his son “believed in himself, I believe (in him).”
Because of typically Wimbledon-y, rainy weather, the schedule has gone a bit sideways, and that means Bouchard will play her semifinal Thursday. Normally, there’d be a day between the quarters and semis, but she only has a few hours overnight to prepare for Simona Halep, the tournament’s third seed and runner-up at Roland Garros.
They’ve played once this year, with Bouchard going down in three sets on hard court, but that doesn’t concern her: a mantra here has been each match is a new match, and what happened in the past does not matter.
“I think she’s playing really well,” Bouchard mused of Halep. “I think she can change direction really well on the court.
“So I’m going to be ready for that. You know, really just try to go for it and take my chances . . . leave it all out on the court. It’s the semis, so I’m going to expect the toughest match ever.”
Despite the impending challenge, Bouchard said, she plans to savour the experience of walking onto Centre Court, perhaps playing in front of a member of the Royal Family — she spotted Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, before her match Wednesday: “I was a little bit in awe,” she said — and ultimately, hopefully, coming back to play in the final.
“You know, it’s not every day you can walk out on Centre Court and play the semis of a Slam,” she said. “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.”
Raonic’s approach is different. He doesn’t plan to savour the beginning. He’s going to focus on the end.
“I think you’ll never enjoy it completely,” Raonic said. “Always that thought will be in my mind, what do I need to do to win? Even stepping out, you can’t erase that from your mind. I’m too competitive for that. I despise losing too much to be able to put that aside.”