Bouchard advances to French Open semifinals; Raonic loses to Djokovic
WATCH: Highlights from the women’s quarterfinals at the French Open where Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard advanced in three-sets
PARIS – Eugenie Bouchard reached her second straight Grand Slam semifinal Tuesday as she defeated Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro 7-6 (4), 2-6, 7-5 at the French Open.
However, fellow Canadian Milos Raonic came up short in his bid to reach the men’s final four at Roland Garros, dropping a 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-4 decision to Novak Djokovic of Serbia.
Earlier this year, Bouchard reached the Australian Open semifinal but lost to eventual champion Li Na of China. The 20-year-old from Westmount, Que., will next meet Russia’s Maria Sharapova after the 2012 champion beat Spain’s Garbine Muguruza 1-6, 7-5, 6-1.
“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 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.
Djokovic, meanwhile, is a six-time major champion but he still needs to win the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam. He reached the semifinals at Roland Garros the last four years, but only made one final, losing to Rafael Nadal in 2012.
Raonic, the No. 8 seed from Thornhill, Ont., fired 21 aces but converted only one of two break opportunities in the match, which also lasted two hours 22 minutes.
Raonic, the first Canadian man to reach a Grand Slam singles quarter-final in the post-1968 Open era, stalled in the third set but managed to break Djokovic as the second seed was serving for victory at 5-2. Djokovic closed it out two games later when a Raonic forehand sailed wide.
The last Canadian to reach a men’s singles semifinals at a Grand Slam was William Johnston at the 1923 US Championships. Robert Powell (Wimbledon, 1908) is the only other Canadian to reach a men’s singles semifinal.
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 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, 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.”
With files from The Associated Press.
© 2014 The Canadian Press