Eugenie Bouchard is through to her second straight Grand Slam semi-final after rallying from 1-4 down in the decider to beat Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro on Suzanne Lenglen Court.
The 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-5 victory was the 20-year-old’s 10th straight win on clay having collected her first title at Nurnberg last week and follows her surprise run to the Australian Open semi-finals in January, where she fell to eventual champion Li Na.
"For me it was such a physical and emotional battle. I was down. I was always coming back and fighting and trying and really kind of a grind on clay," Bouchard said. "I'm proud of this, but I will continue. I want to do better than I did in Australia."
The 2012 champion, Maria Sharapova, is next. It will be a big step up, but Bouchard insists she won't be overawed playing her childhood idol, far from it. "First, we're not friends, so there is that. For sure I respect her. But now we're in the semis of a Grand Slam, so I'm going to respect her but not put her too high on a pedestal and really just battle," Bouchard said.
@geniebouchard Took a selfie after my match... Fabrice thinks I'm "known for my selfies"! #lol
"I want to thank everyone here for creating such a great atmosphere," Bouchard said after the match. "I didn't expect to play such a tough match. She played really well and is a great clay court player. "At the end of the third set I thought I was getting the upper hand began to believe that I could win. I'm just excited to be in the semifinals and to stay a little longer in Paris. I'm just going to enjoy myself in the semifinals."
.@geniebouchard the ONLY player to make both 2014 @australianopen & @rolandgarros SFs
There won’t be any mixed messages about role models, inspiration and friendship when four-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova faces rising 20-year-old star Eugenie Bouchard in a Thursday semifinal at the French Open. As the video above shows, Bouchard has made it clear she and Sharapova aren’t friends.
The young Canadian is stopping any potential narrative that suggests she grew up idolizing Sharapova or that their Nike association means they’re best friends with a mentor-protege relationship. She spoke on the subject at a Tuesday press conference: “We’re not friends, so there is that. Of course as a child I looked up to her and I remember watching her in the finals of Wimbledon and, you know, thought what she was doing was so cool and I wanted to do the same thing. We’re in the semis of a Grand Slam, so I’m going to respect her but not put her too high on a pedestal and really just battle.”
It’s a wise move, one perhaps learned from Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens, who didn’t stop the media from running with that exaggerated story last year, then had to deal with the fallout when the truth came out. It’s better to stop the story before it begins than watch it spiral out of control, especially when pictures like this are circulating around the Internet.
Don’t go too far the other way though. Sharapova and Bouchard don’t seem to have any bad blood. They aren’t enemies. Both understand that tennis is just as much about what’s going on between the ears than with the racket. How can you maintain a competitive edge when you’re besties with the person across the net? Respect and admiration, sure. True friendship is harder.
Bouchard explained: “I don’t think the tennis tour is the place to have friends. For me it’s all competition. I think it’s important to just remember that we’re going to play against each other in matches. It’s not like we’re teammates. To me, it’s kind of more competitive.”
Sharapova, who’s been winning WTA tournaments since Bouchard was nine years old, says the same. “I treat my career and my work as a very serious profession, and I know that what has got me my success is the fact that I’m a big competitor and that I don’t want to give anyone a chance. I was never here from day one to make friendships. This is a battlefield for me, and I want to win.”
She gave Maria Sharapova a stiff challenge at the French Open before the Russian veteran pulled away late for a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory, derailing Bouchard’s attempt to become the first Canadian to reach a major singles final in the Open era. As painful as the defeat was for the 20-year-old from Westmount, Que., it will go down as another valuable learning experience on the heels of her first Grand Slam semi-final appearance at this year’s Australian Open.
It was clear Bouchard wasn’t just happy to be on the big stage. She wanted the victory and was crushed when it didn’t happen. “She was actually very, very disappointed,” Canadian Fed Cup team captain Sylvain Bruneau said on a conference call. “She was not speaking much and I think it shows how much she believes in herself. Sometimes those tough losses are painful but sometimes they’re good. Sometimes you learn from it and they hurt a little bit and the next time you’re in this position, you do a couple things differently and the outcome is different.”
“It was a tough battle, it was what I expected,” said Bouchard. “I didn’t play as well as I had earlier in the tournament. It’s always disappointing to be a bit off. I needed to be aggressive and go for my shots.” Sharapova won eight of the last 10 games, and has now won 19 straight three-set matches on clay. “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,” she said. “If it takes three hours to win the match in three sets, I will be ready for that.”
Bouchard, the No. 18 seed, was playing at the French Open for the only second time. Last year, she lost to Sharapova in the second round. “I’m always disappointed with a loss,” Bouchard said. “I expect a lot from myself. You know, I felt like I was close today and just came up a bit short. That happens sometimes. I feel like I played a lot of good matches the past two weeks, three weeks even, and so it’s sad to see it come to an end. But it just motivates me … I was still so close. That just gives me extra motivation to work hard in practice and get ready for the next one and have that belief that I can do it.”
“I don’t feel that I played my best tennis, but to be in the semi-finals 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. The Russian 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 onto until the end. “I constructed the points well but I didn’t finish them as well as I could,” Bouchard said. “In the third set, I didn’t feel tired, but she does put so much pressure on you. She elevated her game later in the match, I tried to do my thing and I had a couple of chances but I didn’t take my opportunities.
Canada's Eugenie Bouchard has moved up four spots in the WTA tennis rankings following her semifinal appearance at the French Open. The player from Westmount, Que., is ranked a career-high 12th, up from No. 16. Russia's Maria Sharapova moved up three spots to No. 5 after winning the women's title in Paris on the weekend.
No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 2 Li Na didn't move despite early French Open losses, while runner-up Simona Halep rose one spot to No. 3. On the men's side, Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., who made the quarter-finals at Ronald Garros, remained in ninth spot. Spain's Rafael Nadal held onto the No. 1 ranking thanks to his ninth French Open title.
@geniebouchard Good bye @rolandgarros! Thank you all for your support. See you next year ☺️ #centercourtselfie
If Nadal had lost Sunday's final to No. 2 Novak Djokovic, they would have swapped places in the ATP rankings. No. 3 Stan Wawrinka and No. 4 Roger Federer also stayed put, but Andy Murray climbed from No. 8 to No. 5 by reaching the French Open semifinals. First-time major semifinalist Ernests Gulbis jumped seven places to a career-best No. 10.
Canada's Eugenie Bouchard reacts as she defeats Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro during their quarterfinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, France, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Bouchard won 7-6, 2-6, 7-5.
After a slow start, 20-year-old Eugenie Bouchard had a stellar end of May. She captured her first WTA title at NÜRNBERGER VERSICHERUNGSCUP and reached the semifinals of Roland Garros. For that reason she has been voted WTA Rising Star Of The Month for May. Bouchard became the second Canadian in the last 26 years to win a WTA title - since 1988, only she and Aleksandra Wozniak have done it (Wozniak won Stanford in 2008).
"This is kind of like a stepping stone for me. Winning a WTA title is of course a goal I've had, and I'm so happy to accomplish it, but I still want to achieve more - more titles, bigger titles - so this is a step in the right direction, and it's part of the dream, but I want to move forward and keep going from here." Bouchard is also the only player to reach both the Australian Open and Roland Garros semifinals this season.
Bouchard also jumped four spots to seventh place in the Road To Singapore leaderboard for the season-ending BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. Bouchard received more than half of the votes, beating out Garbiñe Muguruza and Monica Puig.