Sharapova rallies past Bouchard to advance to French Open final - NBC Sports

Sharapova rallies past Bouchard to advance to French Open final
June 5, 2014, 11:45 am

PARIS -- For the third straight year, Maria Sharapova will play in the French Open final.

The seventh-seeded Russian again lost the first set Thursday, but again managed to turn things around, this time beating Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

Sharapova won eight of the last 10 games, and has won 19 straight three-set matches on clay - the last three at Roland Garros after losing the first set.

"I would love to win those matches in two sets, but I always feel like I put in the work to be ready to play whatever it takes," Sharapova said. "If it takes three hours to win the match in three sets, I will be ready for that."

Sharapova completed a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open in 2012, but lost to Serena Williams in last year's final.

Bouchard, a 20-year-old Canadian seeded 18th, was playing at Roland Garros for the only second time. Last year, she lost to Sharapova in the second round.

In the other semifinal, fourth-seeded Simona Halep of Romania beat 28th-seeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany.

The final is Saturday.

Sharapova struggled a bit with her serve, double-faulting nine times and getting broken four times. But she made up for her shaky serving with solid groundstrokes, either going for winners or waiting out errors from Bouchard.

"I don't feel that I played my best tennis, but to be in the semifinals of a Grand Slam and winning a match where I felt my opponent played extremely well, exceptional tennis, and I didn't feel that I was playing my best, I fought, I scrambled, and I found a way to win," Sharapova said.

Bouchard took the early lead with her first break in the third game, smacking a forehand winner for a 2-1 edge. She made it 3-1 by completing a run of winning 12 of 17 points.

The pair traded breaks early in the second set, and then again later. But Sharapova managed to stay ahead and broke Bouchard for the third time in the set to even the set score.

Sharapova served first in the third set, and made her move in the fourth game, converting her third break point to take a 3-1 lead that she held to the end.

"It's always disappointing to be a little bit off," Bouchard said. "I felt like I was trying to do what I wanted to do, which was be aggressive, go for my shots. But often I constructed the point well and then didn't finish it as well as I could."

Bouchard, who reached the Australian Open semifinals in January, saved four match points before Sharapova won it with a forehand that Bouchard missed on the other end.

"I felt definitely better on the court than I did in the first semifinal," Bouchard said. "Playing big matches like this, the more I play, the more I'll feel good out there. I felt good today."

Sharapova won her first Grand Slam title 10 years ago at Wimbledon. She followed that with major titles at the U.S. Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008. But since she recovered from having right shoulder surgery in 2008, she has vastly improved her clay-court game and has won six of her last eight titles on the red surface.

This year, Sharapova has already won on clay in Stuttgart and Rome, and her six wins so far at Roland Garros give her an 18-1 record on dirt this season.

And like against Bouchard, it's been tough to beat her in three sets on the surface. The last time Sharapova lost a three-set match on clay was at Roland Garros in 2010, to Justine Henin in the third round.

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