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Sharapova battles through to final

ESPN staff
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Maria Sharapova celebrates winning a point against Eugenie Bouchard © Getty Images
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Maria Sharapova battled back from a set down once again to see off the challenge of Eugenie Bouchard and book her place in a third consecutive French Open final.

Sharapova, the 2012 champion and last year's runner-up to Serena Williams, lost the first set as she did in her quarter-final victory over Garbine Muguruza and her last 16 win over Samantha Stosur.

However there must have been no doubts that Sharapova would handle the pressure after she reeled off nine games in a row to finish off Stosur and crushed Muguruza 6-1 in the final set on Tuesday.

Indeed, she again managed to turn things around, finally ending Bouchard's challenge with her fifth match point to triumph 4-6 7-5 6-2 in two hours and 27 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Sharapova took eight of the last 10 games against Bouchard and remarkably has now won 19 straight three-set matches on clay.

She will play Simona Halep, who beat Andrea Petkovic 6-2 7-6(4) in 90 minutes to reach her first grand slam final.

Following the win, Sharapova gave credit to Bouchard, the 18th seed from Canada who was playing at the French Open for only the second year.

The last time Maria Sharapova lost a three-set match on clay was at Roland Garros in 2010, when Justine Henin beat her in the third round © Getty Images
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"I'm really fortunate to be the winner of this match because she played tremendous today," said Sharapova, who defeated Bouchard in the second round in 2013.

Sharapova added: "I would love to win those matches in two sets, but I always feel like I put in the work to be ready to play whatever it takes. If it takes three hours to win the match in three sets, I will be ready for that.

"I don't feel that I played my best tennis, but to be in the semi-finals of a grand slam and winning a match where I felt my opponent played extremely well, exceptional tennis, and I didn't feel that I was playing my best, I fought, I scrambled, and I found a way to win."

Bouchard took the early lead with her first break in the third game of the match, smacking a forehand winner to give herself a 2-1 edge. She quickly made it 3-1 by completing a run of winning 12 of 17 points.

The pair traded breaks early in the second set, and then again later. But Sharapova managed to stay ahead and broke Bouchard for the third time in the set to even the match at one set apiece.

Sharapova served first in the third set, and made her move in the fourth game, converting her third break point to take a 3-1 lead that she held onto until the end.

Bouchard, who reached the Australian Open semi-finals in January, saved four match points before Sharapova won it with a forehand that went under Bouchard's racquet.

"I'm always disappointed with a loss," said Bouchard. "This is extra motivation. I have belief in myself that I can play with the best.

"It was a tough match. She raised her level at the end. But I enjoyed being out there."

Sharapova won her first grand slam title 10 years ago at Wimbledon. She followed that with major titles at the U.S. Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008. But since she recovered from having right shoulder surgery in 2008, she has vastly improved her clay-court game and has won six of her last eight titles on the red surface.

This year, Sharapova has already won clay-court titles in Stuttgart and Rome, and her six wins so far at Roland Garros give her an 18-1 record on the dirt this season.

And like against Bouchard, it's been tough to beat her in three sets on the surface. The last time Sharapova lost a three-set match on clay was at Roland Garros in 2010, when Justine Henin beat her in the third round.

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