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Sharapova Reaches Third Straight French Open Final, Faces Halep

Maria Sharapova
Russia's Maria Sharapova serves to Canada's Eugenie Bouchard during their French tennis Open semi-final match at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris on June 5, 2014. Photographer: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

Maria Sharapova recovered after losing the first set to beat Eugenie Bouchard and advance to her third straight French Open tennis final, where she’ll play Simona Halep.

Former champion Sharapova of Russia beat the 18th-seeded Canadian 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 yesterday on Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros in Paris. The fourth-seeded Halep beat Germany’s Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) to reach her first Grand Slam final.

“I didn’t feel that I was playing my best,” the seventh-seeded Sharapova told reporters. “I scrambled and I found a way to win.”

Sharapova has had to come back from a set down in her last three matches, while Halep hasn’t dropped a set in the tournament. Four-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova has won all three of her previous matches with the Romanian going into tomorrow’s final.

In today’s men’s semifinals, defending champion Rafael Nadal of Spain, the top seed, takes on Wimbledon champion Andy Murray of the U.K., while second-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia continues his pursuit of the only Grand Slam title he’s failed to win against Ernests Gulbis, the 18th seed from Latvia.

Sharapova, 27, converted six of 20 break points against Bouchard, while conceding four out of nine to her opponent. The Russian produced 33 winners and two more unforced errors than the 48 by the Canadian, who had 29 winners.

Sharapova, in her 18th major semifinal, became the title favorite after the top three women’s seeds -- including defending champion Serena Williams of the U.S. -- lost in the early rounds. Sharapova won the tournament in 2012 and was runner-up to Williams last year.

Bouchard’s Progress

Bouchard, 20, was playing in her second consecutive Grand Slam semifinal, having also reached the last four at the Australian Open. The only other Canadian woman to reach the semifinal at one of the four major tournaments was Carling Bassett-Seguso at the 1984 U.S. Open.

“The whole match I didn’t play as well as I have played earlier in the tournament,” Bouchard told reporters. “It’s always disappointing to be a little bit off.”

Halep, 22, won six tournaments last year, a tally bettered only by Williams.

Halep eased past Petkovic in the first set and was down 3-1 in the second set before fighting back to win.

Kick Serve

Sharapova served a double fault in her second service game to hand Bouchard two break points. The Canadian converted the first one and Sharapova got back on serve at 4-4 before Bouchard broke again before holding her serve to take the set.

Sharapova took a 2-0 lead in the second set and was broken when serving at 5-3. Sharapova finally won the set 7-5 on her fifth set point before racing to a 5-2 lead in the decider. Serving to stay in the tournament, Bouchard saved five match points before Sharapova won on the sixth with a groundstroke that skidded off the baseline.

“It was a very tight second set,” Sharapova said. “In the third I thought I was the aggressive one. I stepped up and I was doing things that I had wanted to do.”

Bouchard, who started playing tennis when she was 5, won the junior Wimbledon title in 2012. She decided to become a tennis player after watching Sharapova win Wimbledon 10 years ago. Bouchard has a picture of herself with the Russian taken at a tournament in Miami when she was 7, and told reporters this week she “looked up” to Sharapova in the past.

“She fights for every point,” Bouchard said. “If I don’t go for it and go try and take my chances, good players like that will take them if you don’t take them. That’s part of the learning experience for me.”

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