Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

French Open: No repeat shock as Maria Sharapova holds her nerve

Sealed with a kiss: Maria Sharapova celebrates her win yesterday
Sealed with a kiss: Maria Sharapova celebrates her win yesterday

Maria Sharapova succeeded where Serena Williams failed in quelling the fire of Garbine Muguruza to reach the semi-finals of the French Open for a fourth straight year.

Twenty-year-old Spaniard Muguruza caused the biggest upset of an unpredictable tournament in the second round with a stunning 6-2 6-2 win over defending champion Williams.

For a long time yesterday it looked as if she would achieve a feat never before seen at a grand slam by beating both Williams and Sharapova at the same tournament.

But Sharapova's competitive instincts kept her in the match and she took her chance as the youngster faded to win 1-6 7-5 6-1.

The Russian – the champion in 2012 and runner-up last year – started nervously with a double fault and quickly found herself 4-0 down.

Muguruza appeared nerveless in her first slam quarter-final and was trading power and shrieks with Sharapova, and after 27 minutes she had the first set.

It looked like Sharapova had turned the match around when she broke serve for 2-1 in the second but, after missing a chance to lead 4-1, two double faults helped Muguruza back to 3-3.

At 5-4, the Spaniard was a game away from the semi-finals, but Sharapova made sure her opponent did not have a sniff before breaking for 6-5 and clinching the set on her third chance.

Sharapova had done an excellent job of slowing Muguruza down, although she was less than impressed to be given a time violation in the second game of the decider.

She moved ahead for the first time in the match at 2-1, and the key game was the next one as the seventh seed saved four break points.

That proved to be the end of Muguruza's challenge, the Spaniard's error count shooting up as Sharapova sealed victory after two hours and six minutes.

Sharapova had also recovered from a set down to beat Sam Stosur in the fourth round and has now won her last nine three-set matches.

In the semi-finals she will play Eugenie Bouchard, who also came through a three-setter against Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro.

The 20-year-old Canadian has remarkable poise on the big stage and, after reaching the last four at the Australian Open in January, she has matched that in Paris.

Bouchard fought back from 5-2 down in the opening set and 4-1 in the decider to win 7-6 (7-4) 2-6 7-5.

Bouchard's approach was summed up by her statement after beating Angelique Kerber in round four: "I don't think the tennis tour is the place to have friends."

Sharapova hails from the same school of thought and their semi-final clash will be eagerly awaited.

Meanwhile, Ernests Gulbis followed up his victory over Roger Federer by dumping out Tomas Berdych to set up a French Open semi-final against Novak Djokovic.

Far from suffering a let down after the biggest win of his career, Gulbis came out and played even better, thumping sixth seed Berdych 6-3 6-2 6-4.

The Latvian was playing in his first grand slam quarter-final for six years and will now meet second seed Djokovic in his maiden semi-final.

Djokovic was also a straight-sets winner, although he had to work hard in the first two sets to break down big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.

Djokovic, who is chasing a first French Open title, had the edge in the tight moments and came through to win 7-5 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

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