sport

Sharapova fights into final

Maria Sharapova reached the French Open final for a third straight year after battling to a 4-6 7-5 6-2 victory over Eugenie Bouchard.

Young Canadian Bouchard won the first set and pushed Sharapova all the way in the second, but the 2012 champion proved too strong in the decider.

It was the third consecutive match in which the seventh-seeded Russian had lost the opening set before coming back to win. The match also marked the 19th straight time Sharapova has won when a clay-court match has gone the distance.

Sharapova completed the win in 2 hours 27 minutes to reach her ninth major final and .

"She played an unbelievable match. Her level was extremely high today and I am just fortunate to be the winner," Sharapova said of Bouchard.                  

"I would prefer to win in two sets, but she started so well. It was tough losing the first set, but that's not when the match is over."

Bouchard, who also reached the last four at the Australian Open in January, had lost comfortably to Sharapova in the second round last year and demonstrated again the huge strides she has made.

The 20-year-old struck first with a break in the third game and although Sharapova fought back to level at 4-4, Bouchard again forged ahead before holding her nerve to serve out the set.

Response

Sharapova responded by moving into a 5-2 lead in the second but was still struggling to find consistency on her serve and double-faulted twice on set point.

Bouchard pounced on the vulnerability to break back but was unable to resist when Sharapova broke again at 5-5, the four-time major winner this time clinching the set when Bouchard netted a forehand.

Bouchard had never lost a Grand Slam match after winning the first set but the feeling was that the momentum was in her opponent's favour heading into the decider. It was no surprise, then, when the Russian moved ahead at 3-1 as Bouchard looked to be feeling the strain, making bad mistakes on the big points.

She saved two break points to hold serve in the sixth game but in the next missed a routine forehand and a volley as Sharapova moved to within one game of victory.

Bouchard fought to the last, saving the first four match points in fine style, but there was nothing she could do when a Sharapova forehand skidded past her after hitting the baseline.

It was a diffcult match for me today and I was really close to winning it, but it was not enough," Bouchard said afterwards.

"I didn't play at the right level at the important moments. It was so close and I feel I am very close to winning a major tournament and being the player I want to be."