Mauricio Paiz

Eugenie Bouchard reached her second consecutive Grand Slam semifinal on Tuesday, winning a two-hour and 22-minute nail-biter with Carla Suarez Navarro 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-5.

That set up a match with Maria Sharapova in Thursday’s women’s final four.

While there were times when Bouchard dominated with her hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners ground attack, there were also stretches when the Spaniard was in control, especially when she won eight of nine games from 2-all in the second set to lead 4-1 in the third.

Bouchard’s level dipped after the first set and Suarez Navarro, with her deep topspin shots and her supremely angled cross-court backhand, was getting the better of the play.

“At the end of the day, whether I win or I lose, I want to at least leave it all there and at least battle,” Bouchard said about the being behind 5-2 in the first set and 4-1 in the third. “I’m proud of how I did that in both the first and third.”

Mauricio Paiz

I was sitting with an American journalist during the first set and he raved about Bouchard’s grit, tennis IQ and uncompromising commitment to going for her shots. He also marveled at how well she pivoted to rotate into her shots – and particularly how she can hit break-out ground strokes that dramatically change the linear pattern of rallies and catch her opponents off guard.

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Helped by a supportive crowd in Court Suzanne Lenglen, Bouchard dug in as she is so good at doing at any point in a match – “I just tried to forget about what the score was or anything and just try to play the right way,” she said. “Once I started to go for my shots a little bit more, it started to work. The third set was just a cool atmosphere I think for both of us. The quarters of a Slam, that’s a great moment to feel the crowd presence as well.”

Bouchard won 11 points in a row from that 4-1 deficit in the third. She has very good body language on the court. Where Suarez Navarro would walk out from a change-over late in the match and sort of mope as if she was dreading what might happen next – Bouchard always looked raring to go.

When she finally got to match point, she double-faulted on the first one and then hit a wild backhand wide on the second. But it didn’t faze her.

“I didn’t really worry about it” Bouchard said. “I didn’t see it as a big deal – I just re-grouped for the next point. On the second match point, I missed a ball, but I was going for it, so I didn’t worry too much. I think that was a bit the theme of the whole match – even if I was down 5-2 or 4-1 in the third…not to worry too much, keep going, keep going. And it paid off in the end.”

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Afterward, during her on-court post-match interview with former player (now French TV commentator) Fabrice Santoro, she took control of the situation when he said he wanted a ‘selfie’ with her. Bouchard took his cellphone and coolly executed the shot herself.  

A little later, four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters was in the players area and said about Bouchard, “I like her attitude, I like her game, the aggressiveness is something that I really like. She’s young still, so it’s going to be fun to see how she’s going to react in the next couple of days. It’s the first time she’s in this position where she’s playing in the (French Open) semis, so this is great for her to have this experience and give herself another opportunity to be in these situations. Maria wasn’t playing great today, so I think if she takes her chances, and believes that she can win, she can make it really tough for her.”

Clijsters lost four Grand Slam finals before she won her first – including coming out on the wrong end of a heart-breaking 1-6, 6-4, 12-10 score to Jennifer Capriati in the 2001 French Open when she was about to turn 18.

The Belgian was a popular, easy-going player, not at all like the driven individual that Bouchard is as she pursues her dream of tennis glory. Asked if she wishes she could have been as tough a competitor as Bouchard is when she started her career, Clijsters replied, “I always played with emotions and that’s who I am. And now that I’m older, even more so I realize that it took some time to be able to put those emotions aside. You are who you are, you can’t change that. I was happy that I gave myself a few more opportunities later.”

Those later opportunities were the two US Opens and one Australian Open she won at age 26 and later on in her comeback after giving birth to a daughter.

Mauricio Paiz

Bouchard is 0-2 with Sharapova, including losing 6-2, 6-4 in last year’s second round on the same Court Philippe Chatrier where they will meet on Thursday. In that match, Bouchard played better than the score suggests and she is now more mature by a whole year.

“She’s a great champion,” Bouchard said when asked about often being compared to Sharapova, “so to be seen as the next of someone who has won four Slams and has been No. 1 in the world, it’s a compliment.

“But at the same time, I’m my own person and I just want to be myself on the court – try to achieve what I want to achieve and just be seen as that.”

Mauricio Paiz

About her game-plan, Bouchard repeated her usual mantra, “I will try to attack as much as I can and play my game. That is what I try to do on the court.”

That’s exactly how Sharapova plays as well – so it will be irresistible object against immoveable force.

When she was asked if she knew Bouchard well, Sharapova said, “I don’t know her well personally. We did a little (photo) shoot together at the (2013) Australian Open. Other than that, that was it.”

In one way, Bouchard might have gotten a little too close to her one-time idol Sharapova at last year’s US Open, even though the 6-foot-2 Russian did not play as a result of a shoulder ailment. Because Nike wanted exposure for its specially-designed Sharapova dress with an outline of the Manhattan skyline on it – Bouchard (as well as Madison Keys) got to wear it instead.

There won’t be any duplication of attire on Thursday. But if there happens to be a resemblance in determination and drive, that’s certainly probably not an accident.

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 The scoreline of Milos Raonic’s quarter-final with Novak Djokovic – 7-5, 7-6(4), 6-4 – is a fair representation of the match.

In the first two sets, Raonic only lost his serve once – in the last game of the opening set when Djokovic won the final two points from 30-30 with a glorious backhand down-the-line winner and a bomb backhand passing shot that forced a backhand half-volley miss wide of the sideline by Raonic.

In the second set tiebreak, Raonic was on serve at 5-4 for Djokovic when he misfired a forehand into the net, giving the Serbian world No. 2 the separation he needed to soon grab a 2-0 sets lead.

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Raonic got closer to Djokovic in a 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 6-3 loss in the semifinals of the Italian Open three weeks ago. “I think what stood out today compared to Rome was he was playing a lot closer to the baseline,” Raonic said. “He was not letting me dictate as much as I was able to in Rome.”

Mauricio Paiz

Canadian Davis Cup captain (first to right of railing above) Martin Laurendeau summed up the quarter-final from his point of view in Court Philippe Chatrier. “It was a good match in the circumstances. The two first sets were hyper-close and Djokovic pulled off some incredible shots at the right time. With a two sets lead, Djokovic kind of loosened up a bit and took a good lead (5-1) in the third. I really liked the way Milos dug in, even though he was losing 5-1. It showed a great competitive spirit.

“It’s been a really good season on clay, really exceptional. He’s continuing to progress and the result are there to prove it.”

Mauricio Paiz

During his post-match media conference, Raonic claimed to be in a bad mood – but he was actually more expansive than he had been all week. Maybe that was because the mounting pressure of being in the tournament had ended for him. “I’m not in a good mood, that’s simply it,” he said. “More than what pleases me about winning is what pisses me off about losing.”

He was expansive in describing his chances as he moves onto the grass for the tournament in Halle next week and then Wimbledon in three weeks.

Last year, Raonic only won a single match on grass – losing in his opening matches in Halle (Gael Monfils) and Eastbourne (Ivan Dodig) and in the second round at Wimbledon (Igor Sijsling).

Here’s an exchange between a veteran Canadian tennis writer (guess who?) and Raonic during his media conference:

Q. There is an old Canadian guy predicting you're going to win Halle. What do you think about that?

MILOS RAONIC:  There is a lot more tennis to be played.

Q. No, but if you keep up this level – forget about what the surface is – obviously you like your chances once you get to the grass.

MILOS RAONIC:  Yeah. I feel like I’m doing a lot of things better; whereas probably in previous years I would go from on clay playing much further back, and then having to sort of quickly turn it around.  Maybe that’s why I have struggled on grass.

Now I feel like I try to play as close to the baseline as possible relatively, and I think that will sort of make that transition to grass more comfortable. It’s going to take me time, but I don’t think anybody plays really brilliant tennis the first week of grass especially.

Mauricio Paiz

As much as he would have liked to have gone further at Roland Garros, in the past few weeks Raonic has made a remarkable leap in his level – the most dramatic progress in his game since he broke through and reached the round-of-16 at the 2011 Australian Open as an unknown.

As much as Bouchard as progressed and impressed, Raonic, under the microscope, has done just as well with his improvement from the baseline on both sides – and with the way he is implementing an overall more relentless attacking gamestyle that should pay big dividends – possibly in the very near future.    



It just wasn’t meant to be Daniel Nestor’s year at the French Open. After running off 11 match wins in a row with partner Nenad Zimonjic in Madrid, Rome and Paris, he was upset Monday in the quarter-finals by an unseeded Croat/Romanian pair.

On Tuesday, seeded No. 5 in mixed doubles with Kristina Mladenovic, he was ousted 6-3, 1-6 [10-3] by third seedsYaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan and Bruno Soares of Brazil.

The match tiebreak went all Shvedova and Soares' way from 3-all. Hard to believe Nestor and Mladenovic could not win one more point – with the last one being an acutely angled shot by Soares almost parallel to the net that Mladenovic chased down and whacked into the top of the net-post.

Nestor and the 21-year-old Frenchwoman won the Australian Open in January and will now move on to Wimbledon where they are the defending champions.

In junior girls second-round action, 17-year-old Francoise Abanda of Montreal, seeded No. 10, had little trouble beating French wild card Victoria Muntean 6-2, 6-0. She will next play unseeded Isabelle Wallace of Great Britain. 



After his straight-sets win over Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals, Ernests Gulbis, who grew up in a very wealthy family in Latvia, was asked about realizing that he would be happier if he was more conscientious about his (tennis) job. Here was his answer:

“It was definitely a realization. I just thought everything is gonna come too easy for me because everything in life was coming just…it was coming. I wasn’t really thinking about it and not putting enough effort into it.

“I was in school. I never had problems in school. Everything was coming easy – all the information. Tennis, everything was coming easy. I thought I’m just gonna grind in life like this, easy without any effort, and be successful.

“And then…and then…shit happened.”

That got a roar of laughter in the interview room.



The “riverains” or neighbours in the affluent homes situated around Roland Garros have been obstructing approval of an expansion of the French Tennis Federation’s grounds for several years. Originally announced in 2011, the plan was to be finished in 2015. Now things are progressing again – but major expansion still won’t be accomplished until 2019. Above is a notice for yet more hearings – from Tuesday to Friday next week.