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
Showing the fearlessness of youth, the 18th seed produced her best when down against Suarez Navarro. The Spaniard served for the opening set at 5-2, but the mental fragility that has at times stunted the gifted player with that sublime single-handed backhand began to creep in. Bouchard could sense her opponent was tightening up, and pounced. Continuing to go full throttle for her shots, the Canadian broke for 3-5 before Suarez Navarro would get a second crack at serving it out.
Bouchard strung a backhand winner down the line and a backhand drop shot to again have the diminutive Spaniard in trouble. She would bring up a third break point for the game with an off-forehand winner at net before forcing Suarez Navarro into a backhand error to level at 5-5.
Desperate to stem the swing in momentum, Suarez Navarro snapped her opponent’s run of eight straight points to force a tiebreak. When the 14th seed – who reached the Roland Garros quarter-finals on debut as a qualifier back in 2008 – pushed a forehand wide at 4-5 she handed the Canadian set points. Bouchard would only need one, forcing the Spaniard into error on the stretch to complete the unlikely comeback.
Down a set and a break in the second, Suarez Navarro upped her aggression, finding the form which carried her to a maiden title in Oerias, Portugal, earlier in the season, a win which broke a horror stretch of losing her first five finals. Charging the net to change things up, she would break to love, whipping a forehand winner for 1-1.
Suarez Navarro again surged to 5-2, but unlike the first set would not have to serve it out, steadying to drag Bouchard wide before whipping the swinging forehand volley to break for the set 6-2.
Trading breaks of service to open the decider, it was Suarez Navarro who would consolidate first, taking four games on the trot for 4-1. From here, the nerves began to creep in once more and again Bouchard was ready to take the initiative. She would take 10 points in a row with a backhand winner on the run drawing games back level to 4-4 and with the Spaniard serving to stay in the match at 6-5, it was clear she was losing the mental edge.
Serving for the match, Bouchard missed a fading floating forehand volley which would have put her two points from the match. She steadied and Suarez Navarro helped her on her way with a shanked forehand wide bringing up match point. A double fault, just her fourth from the match, showed she too was not immune to a bout of quarter-final nerves. She would clinch it on match point No.3 when Suarez Navarro’s backhand found the net, becoming the first Canadian to reach a Roland Garros semi-final.
Bouchard was soundly beaten in her maiden slam semi-final back in January. Again she will face the might of a Grand Slam champion in the semi-finals.
This time she is determined to prove she belongs.