Bouchard bids to topple idol

Eugenie Bouchard used to idolise Maria Sharapova, now she will face her in the semi-finals of the French Open.

Bouchard bids to topple idol

The speed of the Canadian’s rise has been remarkable, given the days of teenagers winning Grand Slams ended with Sharapova’s Wimbledon triumph aged 17 in 2004.

It was a day that inspired Bouchard, then 10 years old, to try to emulate the Russian, who has won one title at each of the four slams.

Bouchard said: “I remember when she won Wimbledon I was watching her on TV, and I thought, ‘Wow, what she’s doing is cool. I want to do the same’.

“I was playing tennis already at the time. She was a source of inspiration for me at the time, and therefore, she was an idol when I was younger.

“But now we have reached the semi-finals of a Grand Slam. Now she’s a tennis player. I respect her. But I will do my best during the match.”

Bouchard first met Sharapova when she was eight, posing for a now famous picture with the Russian at a tournament in Miami.

Ten years later, Bouchard also won a Wimbledon trophy, but it was the girls’ singles one, the Canadian having opted to stay in juniors longer than many of her contemporaries.

It appears to have paid off given that, in only her second year of playing in the main draw of Grand Slams, she has now made back-to-back semi-finals.

She has arguably been more impressive in Paris than she was at the Australian Open, and fought back from 5-2 down in the first set and 4-1 in the third to defeat Carla Suarez Navarro 7-6 (7/4) 2-6 7-5 in yesterday’s quarter-final.

Sharapova also needed to show all her fighting spirit in achieving what Serena Williams could not, defeating Spaniard Garbine Muguruza.

The 20-year-old caused the biggest upset of an unpredictable tournament in the second round with a stunning 6-2 6-2 win over defending champion Williams. But Sharapova was stronger in the crucial stages at the end of the second set and start of the third to win 1-6 7-5 6-1.

“When you just don’t feel like anything is going your way, you want to try to find a little door to get into,” said Sharapova. “I have been there so many times. It’s always that little part that’s the toughest.”

In the men’s draw, Ernests Gulbis and Novak Djokovic will meet in the semi-finals at Roland Garros.

Gulbis followed up his victory over Roger Federer by thumping sixth seed Tomas Berdych 6-3 6-2 6-4 yesterday Djokovic saw off Milos Raonic 7-5 7-6 (7/5) 6-4.

Many players have a let down after a big win such as the Federer one, but Gulbis came out and played even better against Berdych.

He said: “Everything was good. I felt physically so good. I felt that I can run forever. I felt that he cannot make a winner. If I feel so confident from the baseline, then everything just comes together.”

Djokovic had a tougher time against Raonic, who took a set off him in Rome last month, and was delighted to complete a victory in straight sets.

“It’s never smooth against Milos or against any server of his calibre,” he said. “When he’s on, it’s very difficult to do anything except be mentally strong and consistent and try to wait for the opportunities.”

In today’s quarter-finals in Paris, Andy Murray renew a rivalry with Gael Monfils that began 16 years ago in Rouen. Murray was 10 and Monfils 11 when they met in the semi-finals of a junior tournament, the Frenchman winning before losing to Murray’s brother Jamie in the final.

“He used to play with glasses,” said Wimbledon champion Murray. “He was the same as he is now. He was just a great athlete, moved unbelievably well, smiling on the court. He’s just always been a great entertainer, and he’s great for the sport.”

Spain’s Rafael Nadal tackles compatriot David Ferrer, while Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova faces Simona Halep of Romania and Sara Errani of Italy plays German Andrea Petkovic.

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