Sharapova ‘fortunate’ to reach French Open final after rallying past Bouchard

Canada's Bouchard falls at semi-final stage again after last-four defeat at Australian Open

Maria Sharapova of Russia returns a shot during her French Open women's singles semi-final match against Eugenie Bouchard of Canada at Roland Garros on June 5, 2014 in Paris.  Matthew Stockman / Getty Images
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Paris // Maria Sharapova reached the final of the French Open for the third straight year at Roland Garros on Thursday, digging deep to see off the youthful challenge of Canada's Eugenie Bouchard.

The No 7 seed, 27, once again did it the hard way, battling back from a set down to edge the 20 year old from Montreal 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in a match full of beefy baseline shot-making.

It was the 19th time in a row that the never-say-die Sharapova had won a three-set match on clay, dating back to a loss against Justine Henin at Roland Garros in 2010.

For the fast-rising Bouchard, it represented the second time in succession that she reached a grand slam semi-final, after this year’s Australian Open, and the second time she failed to go a step further, having lost to eventual champion Li Na in Melbourne.

“She played an unbelievable match. Her level was extremely high today and I am just fortunate to be the winner,” Sharapova said.

“I would prefer to win in two sets, but she started so well. It was tough losing the first set, but that’s not when the match is over. I fought and I scrambled and I found a way to win.”

Both players were guilty of slow starts earlier in the tournament, but the quality from both was high from the start as the sunshine returned to light up the centre court.

Bouchard broke first to lead 3-1, but the Russian was soon back on level terms at 4-4.

Bouchard, the WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2013, then produced an inspired game to stun her girlhood idol Sharapova, breaking serve and then holding to take the first set in 44 minutes.

But Sharapova is seldom as dangerous as when she is behind, especially on clay, as shown in her two previous matches when she dropped the opening set to Samantha Stosur and Garbine Muguruza.

Seeking a fifth slam title, Sharapova jumped to leads of 4-1 and 5-2 in the second set. But like so often in the past, Sharapova’s wobbly serve let her down and she let slip four set points, twice via double faults, as Bouchard battled back to level at 5-5.

Sharapova was in big trouble, but once again she found a way of digging her way out, holding serve and then levelling the score by bagging her sixth set point in the following game.

Once again, Sharapova's drive and determination allowed her to dominate the deciding set, with Bouchard struggling to keep up.

Sharapova grabbed a vital break in the third game to lead 4-1 and raced away with the match as Bouchard wilted, although the Russian still needed five match points to finish the job.

“It was a difficult match for me today and I was really close to winning it, but it was not enough,” Bouchard said.

“I didn’t play at the right level at the important moments. It was so close and I feel I am very close to winning a major tournament and being the player I want to be.”

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