Eugenie Bouchard reaches French Open semifinals
Montreal native beats Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in 3 sets
Canada's Eugenie Bouchard reached her second straight Grand Slam semifinal as she defeated Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro 7-6 (4), 2-6, 7-5 at the French Open on Tuesday.
The spot in the final four comes four months after the 18th seed from Montreal lost to eventual champion Li Na in an Australian Open semifinal.
The day wasn't kind to Canada's other tennis star, Milos Raonic, who was eliminated in the quarter-finals by Serbian Novak Djokovic 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-4.
The 20-year-old Bouchard will next meet Russia's Maria Sharapova after the 2012 champion beat Spain's Garbine Muguruza in a 1-6, 7-5, 6-1 comeback win.
"I'm very content with a win like this," said Bouchard. "It was a battle throughout. She played very well especially on long points.
"The last set was key for me. I'm really excited to be playing Sharapova in a big match here."
Bouchard's coach Nick Saviano told CBC's News Network shortly after the match that he expects his pupil to keep the same level of consistency against Sharapova on Thursday that's already been on display during this French Open tournament.
“She’s more than capable of winning that match,” Saviano said. “Whether she does or not, I don’t know. Everything will be done tomorrow to practise and prepare to make sure that Genie goes out and plays Genie Bouchard tennis to the best of her ability on every single ball strike. Not even just the point but on every strike of the ball. We want her to as well as she possibly can. And if she does that we’ll take whatever result is there.
Bouchard won the first set in an hour, but dropped the second after losing her last two service games. Suarez Navarro jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the third set before the 18th-seeded Canadian fought back with a key break and service holds.
"I wouldn't say I surprised myself, no," said Bouchard. "I've come back in matches before. Tennis can be like that, a bit up and down. I just really tried to forget about what the score was or anything and just tried to play the right way, you know.
"Once I started going for my shots a little bit more it started working better. The third set it was just a really cool atmosphere I think for both of us to be playing like that. Even if I was down 5-2 or 4-1 in the third, (I didn't) worry too much — keep going, keep going, keep going, and it paid off in the end."
Bouchard earned a match point but double-faulted. She put a backhand long on a second chance before clinching victory after two hours 22 minutes when her opponent came up short on a return.
Bouchard finished with 46 winners, 38 unforced errors and breaks on six of 14 chances.
Sharapova, a four-time Grand Slam winner, has won both of her previous matches against Bouchard, including a second-round match last year in Paris.
Following the tradition begun in Melbourne earlier this year, a fan tossed a stuffed animal to Bouchard and she took it to her on-court television interview. Former French player Fabrice Santoro then insisted on taking a photo with Bouchard as the crowd cheered.
Bouchard makes more history
Bouchard is the third Canadian woman to reach the Roland Garros quarter-finals after Carling Bassett-Seguso (1984, 1986) and Helen Kelesi (1988, 1989). Bouchard and Bassett-Seguso are the only players to reach the semifinals at a Grand Slam (Bassett-Seguso, 1984 US Open).
Sharapova is headed to her 18th semfinal, Bouchard her second. Bouchard is seven years younger, and tracked Sharapova's career from afar.
"First I noticed, like, her cute dresses and things like that when I was young," said Bouchard, who recalled being a spectator at a tournament in Florida as a youngster and posing for a photo with Sharapova.
"She, of course, is very strong mentally. It is one of her strengths, I think," Bouchard said. "I'm just looking forward to the challenge."
Sharapova, meanwhile, started slow Tuesday by dropping four of her first five games. She then started to land her shots and her serves with more consistency and won nine of the last 10 games.
Muguruza, who was playing in a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time in her career, eliminated defending champion Serena Williams in the second round.
Sharapova lost in the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2011, then won the title a year later to complete a career Grand Slam. She lost in last year's final to Williams.
"It was so tough losing in the final last year, being the defending champion," Sharapova said. "This year, to come back, I have the extra motivation to go further, and to be back on (this) stage is a really nice feeling."
Sharapova opened her match with a double fault, the first of eight in the match. And she lost 15 of the first 20 points.
But even though Sharapova held in the fifth game, she was broken again, this time at love, to lose the first set.
Things changed rather quickly in the second set. At 1-1, Sharapova finally broke, with some help from Muguruza.
The unseeded Spaniard, ranked 35th in the world, double-faulted twice in a row to give Sharapova her second break point of the match. The tall Russian converted when Muguruza sent a backhand long.
Although Sharapova was broken again in the set, again with a double fault, she started to hold serve more easily while giving Muguruza more trouble while receiving.
By the time the third set started, Sharapova was moving Muguruza all over the court, landing her forehands and backhands easily.
The only hiccup came in the fourth game, when Muguruza had five break points but couldn't convert any of them.
"That was one of the most important games," Sharapova said. "After I won that game, I certainly gained more confidence."
In mixed doubles, Toronto's Daniel Nestor and French partner Kristina Mladenovic dropped a 6-3, 1-6, 10-3 quarter-final decision to third seeds Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan and Brazil's Bruno Soares.
Genie & Maria
The following photo appeared on Twitter after Bouchard's win Tuesday. It shows a young Bouchard posing with Sharapova circa 2002:
With files from The Associated Press and CBCSports.ca