Maria Sharapova has won the title at all four Grand Slam tournaments, topped the world rankings and made more money than any sportswoman in history, but her hunger for success on the court remains undiminished.
The 27-year-old Russian lost the first set for the third match in succession here at the French Open, but still found a way to win, beating Canada's Eugenie Bouchard 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 to reach her third final in a row at Roland Garros. It was Sharapova's 19th consecutive victory in matches on clay that have gone to three sets.
The 2012 champion, who will play Simona Halep in Saturday's final after the Romanian beat Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 7-6, has lost only one of her 19 matches on clay this year, but was pushed hard by 20-year-old Bouchard, who took up the game after being inspired by watching Sharapova.
"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," Sharapova said. "If it takes three hours to win the match in three sets, I will be ready for that. If I have a match that's easier and a more convincing win, then I will take that, as well. But I will do whatever it takes."
After playing only one match in the last six months of 2013 after suffering further shoulder trouble, Sharapova had not won a tournament for a year until she successfully defended her title in Stuttgart in April.
"I'm very proud, because I worked hard to get myself injury free, and I had to work through some tough losses in the beginning of the season that I didn't want to accept," she said. "I worked through them, I worked hard, and I'm in this position giving myself a chance. As a tennis player, that's what I'm personally proud of more than anything."
Halep has reached her first Grand Slam final without dropping a set. The 22-year-old Romanian, who has won more titles (seven) over the past 12 months than any woman other than Serena Williams, was ranked No 57 in the world going into this tournament last year. She is already up to No 4 and is set to climb another place when the rankings are updated next week.
Sharapova has won all three of her previous matches against Halep. Their only meeting on clay was in last month's final in Madrid, which Sharapova won in three sets.Reuse content