MARIA Sharapova again showed her resilience when she recovered from a poor start to down up-and-coming Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 1-6, 7-5, 6-1 and reach the French Open semi-finals.
The 2012 champion and last year’s runner-up, who will meet Eugenie Bouchard after the Canadian beat Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in three sets, lost the first four games as she conceded the first set before regaining her composure against a player who knocked holder Serena Williams out in the second round.
An early break in the second set was all the seventh-seeded Russian needed to gain momentum.
The match turned Sharapova’s way when she held for 3-1 in the third set after saving five break points in a game that lasted more than ten minutes.
“That was one of the most important games in the third set. After that game I gained more confidence. That was the turning point,” she said.
Once a self-described “cow on ice” on clay, Sharapova will be playing her fourth consecutive Roland Garros semi-final – a feat she also achieved at the Australian Open from 2005-08.
Under threatening skies on court Philippe Chatrier, she trailed 4-0 and, when she threatened a comeback in the set, Muguruza relied on her big first serve to keep her at bay.
The Spaniard broke to love to bag the opening set, but Sharapova is not one to give up without a fight.
Two double faults and a forehand that sailed long gave her a break for 2-1 in the second set as Muguruza’s game lost its accuracy. A double fault allowed the Venezuela-born Muguruza to break back for 3-3 but, in the 11th game, the world No 35 sent a backhand wide that gave Sharapova a decisive break.
After breaking early in the decider, Sharapova, who also came from a set down in her last-16 match against Sam Stosur, saved five break points in the fourth game, which featured six deuces.
The four-times grand slam champion took it with a service winner and never looked back.
Earlier, Suarez Navarro, 25, squandered a 5-2 lead in the first set, caught by Bouchard’s attacking play that sent her opponent scurrying across the baseline, unable to dominate with her trademark one-handed backhand.
After stealing the first set, Bouchard, 20, took the early momentum in the second, breaking serve in the opening game only to be broken straight back by the 14th seed, who went on to break twice more as Bouchard’s levels appeared to dip. But the Canadian recovered to win the third set and reach her second consecutive grand slam semi and the 18th seed can now look forward to her showdown with Sharapova.