Billie Jean King believes Wimbledon finalists Petra Kvitova and Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard are creating one of the most exciting times in women’s tennis in decades.
King ought to know. She helped start the Women’s Tennis Association more than 40 years ago.
The 24-year-old Kvitova of the Czech Republic will face the 20-year-old Bouchard, who will play in her first Wimbledon women’s singles final on Saturday. It will also be the first appearance for a Canadian woman in a Grand Slam singles final.
The finalists are from a generation of fitter and stronger players who have “closed the gap on power and belief” with their older contemporaries, King said at a news conference during Wimbledon.
“They have definitely caught up,” King said. “Women have more confidence overall, Serena (Williams) is not in the same place as she was, she’s a little more vulnerable.
“The men have had their ‘Top 4.’ Now we’ve got a lot of younger women who want to be here. They like the show time.”
Bouchard, from Westmount, Que., defeated Romania’s Simona Halep 7-6 (5), 6-2 in semifinal play Thursday while Kvitova defeated fellow Czech Lucie Safarova 7-6 (6), 6-1. Kvitova won her only Wimbledon title in 2011.
Bouchard was ranked No. 13 heading into this year’s tournament, seven positions lower than Kvitova.
Bouchard won the Wimbledon girls’ title in 2012 and was named WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2013. She has performed well at the other majors this season, reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open and French Open.
She won her first WTA title last month at the Nuremberg Cup. It was the first WTA singles title for a Canadian woman since Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., won at Stanford six years ago.
Bouchard has a chance to become the youngest Grand Slam women’s champion since Maria Sharapova won the 2006 U.S. Open at age 19.
Here are five things to know about the big show Saturday on Centre Court:
WHAT A YEAR: Bouchard was the only woman to have advanced to all three Grand Slam tournament semifinals this year, and now she’s taken it another step. She’s received support from her home country, politicians, and even “The Big Bang Theory” actor Jim Parsons. She finished 2013 ranked 32nd and will move to sixth or seventh — the highest ranking for a Canadian woman — when the new ranking list comes out Monday.
ONLY MEETING: Kvitova and Bouchard have played just once. They faced off on hard courts last year at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, with Kvitova an easy winner 6-3, 6-2.
NEW GENERATION: The final Saturday is the first to feature two players born in the 1990s. Kvitova is the only player born in that decade to win a Grand Slam — her 2011 title here — while Bouchard is the fourth player born in the ’90s to reach a Grand Slam final. The others are Halep (French Open runner-up) and former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, the 2009 U.S. Open runner-up.
KVITOVA’S THOUGHTS: “Bouchard is playing (a) very solid game. She’s a very good mover. She’s nearby the baseline. I think it’s very similar to my game. I beat her for the first time last year, but it’s long time ago. This is totally different. So, I mean, I really have to be focusing on everything and try to push her.”
BOUCHARD’S PLAN: “She has good shots which are very powerful compared perhaps to opponents I played in the tournament. I think she will try to attack, but I will try to do the same thing. I think both of us will try to put pressure on each other. I think it will be important to start the points well on serve and on return. It will be the first shots that decide the match.”
With files from The Canadian Press