“Sharapova is like a tea bag. Put her into hot water and [you’ll] find out how strong she is.” – Judy Murray, British Fed Cup Captain and mother of Andy Murray
Judy Murray is right about Maria Sharapova. Masha has found herself in hot water for three straight matches and each time has shown the strength of game and mind that has made her one of the greatest players of her generation. Against fast rising star Eugenie Bouchard, Sharapova did what she did against Samantha Stosur and Garbine Muguruza, she immediately dropped the first set and had tight moments in the second. Genie came out showing no fear for her childhood idol, taking the first set 6-4 and battling back from a break down to level the second set at 5-5. At that point, the young Canadian was a mere two games away from her first Major final. It was not to be. Against Stosur, Masha won the last 9 games of the match. Against Muguruza, Sharapova won 9 of the last 10 games of the match. And for the third time in a row, the career Grand Slam winner raised her game when she most needed, winning 8 of the last 10 games to finish going away, 4-6 7-5 6-2. Speaking of three in a row, Masha has now reached three straight Roland Garros finals. Not bad for somebody once not considered a great clay court player.
Sharapova will face #4 seed Simona Halep. Simona has yet to lose a set this tournament, despite facing good competition in Sloane Stephens, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Andrea Petkovic. Against Petkovic in the semis, Halep came out sharp, racing through a quick 6-2 opening set victory. It appeared to be another routine win unfolding for Simona. But the quality of play from Andrea rose significantly in the second set. She broke Halep early in the second set and looked to have the upper hand…until the 5th game of the set changed everything. Up 3-1 and holding two game points for 4-1 at 40-15 on her own serve, Petkovic played several loose points, including a pulled crosscourt forehand and a double fault to go from a point away from 4-1 to back on serve at 3-2 with Simona serving. They eventually dueled to 6-6 before Halep edged ahead in a tiebreak, finally dismissing Andrea, 6-2 7-6 (4). It goes down as another straight sets victory for Simona, but Petkovic had her chances in the second set to extend the match. Simona has lost all 3 times she has played Masha, but each match keeps getting closer. Sharapova won the first match 6-3 6-4 on hard court. The second match went to Masha 7-5 7-5, also on hard court. Their last match, a few weeks ago in Madrid on clay, went three sets with Sharapova winning, 1-6 6-2 6-3. Might the Roland Garros 2014 final be the time that Simona finally breaks through against Masha? I can’t wait to see.
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4 SIMONA HALEP (won 6-2 7-6 (4) vs 28 Andrea Petkovic)
7 MARIA SHARAPOVA (won 4-6 7-5 6-2 vs 18 Eugenie Bouchard)