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Russia’s Maria Sharapova returns the ball to Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard during their French tennis Open semifinal match at the Roland Garros Stadium in Paris
Sharapova, Halep in Paris final Rojer, Groenefeld win doubles

PARIS, June 5, (Agencies): Maria Sharapova reached the final of the French Open for the third straight year at Roland Garros on Thursday, digging deep to see off the youthful challenge of Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard. The 27-year-old, seventh seed once again did it the hard way, battling back from a set down to edge the 20-year-old from Montreal 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in a match full of beefy baseline shot-making.
It was the 19th time in a row that the never-say-die Sharapova had won a three-set match on clay, dating back to a loss against Justine Henin at Roland Garros in 2010.
For the fast-rising Bouchard, it represents the second time she has reached a Grand Slam semi-final, after this year’s Australian Open, and the second time she has failed to go a step further, having lost to eventual champion Li Na in Melbourne.


“She played an unbelievable match. Her level was extremely high today and I am just fortunate to be the winner,” Sharapova said.
“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.”
“I fought and I scrambled and I found a way to win.”
Both players had been guilty of slow starts earlier in the tournament, but the quality from both was high from the start as the sunshine returned to light up the centre court.
Meanwhile, Simona Halep became the first Romanian woman to reach a Grand Slam final in 34 years Thursday when she beat Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) to set-up a French Open title clash against Maria Sharapova.


The 22-year-old fourth seed swept to victory in 90 minutes.
The last Romanian in a final at a major was Halep’s manager Virginia Ruzici, who was champion at Roland Garros in 1978 and then finished runner-up two years later to Chris Evert.
The former world junior number one had never previously got beyond the second round in Paris, but the woman voted the most improved player of 2013 has raced through the tournament without losing a set.
Despite her higher ranking, Halep will start as the outsider against seventh seed Sharapova in Saturday’s final.
The Russian is in her third Roland Garros championship match having won the title in 2012 and holds a 3-0 winning record over Halep although the Romanian pushed her to three sets in the Madrid claycourt final earlier this year.
On Thursday, she was 4-1 ahead in just 14 minutes courtesy of two breaks of the German 28th seed who was also playing in her first major semi-final.


Halep fired three aces in the opener and allowed the 26-year-old German just seven points off her serve.
Petkovic briefly rallied with a break to lead 3-1 in the second set but then handed the advantage straight back to the speedy Halep.
The German was finally undone in the tiebreak when Halep wrapped up the semi-final with a sweeping, running forehand.
Petkovic, who spent two and a half hours more on court than Halep getting to this stage, can still reflect on a successful tournament.
The former world number nine was ranked at 177 in March last year after battling a series of knee and back injuries and failed to get out of qualifying for the 2013 Roland Garros event.
In related story, Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany won the mixed doubles title at the French Open by defeating eighth-seeded Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia and Julia Goerges of Germany 4-6, 6-2, 10-7 on Thursday.


Rojer was playing his first Grand Slam final while Groenefeld won the mixed doubles title at Wimbledon with Mark Knowles of the Bahamas in 2009.
“I gained a friend this week. I lost one, because I had to tell some other player that I’m not playing with her,” Rojer said. “So I hope she understands, especially now. But I apologized like 18 times to her.”
Rojer and Groenefeld were teaming up for the first time.
“Actually, I was asking around,” Groenefeld said. “No one wanted to play with me, and then he said yes.”
They saved three match points in the semifinal against Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan and Bruno Soares of Brazil on Wednesday.


Zimonjic and Goerges took the opening set when the Serb hit a forehand return winner off Rojer’s serve.
Rojer and Groenefeld evened the match as Goerges dropped serve twice in the second set. They won four straight points in the final-set champions tiebreaker to lead 5-2 before clinching the victory when Goerges netted a backhand volley.
“For Julia, it was difficult to get into the match. For sure, it was difficult because it was her first (major) final,” Zimonjic said. “Anna-Lena, she has more experience. She played already finals at Wimbledon, so I’m sure that’s what helped her a lot there.”
Zimonjic won the mixed doubles title at the French Open in 2006 and 2010 with Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia.

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