PARIS -- No. 7 Maria Sharapova rallied to beat Garbine Muguruza 1-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the quarterfinals of the French Open on Tuesday.
Sharapova, the 2012 winner, overcame a slow start for the second match in a row, having defeated No. 19 Sam Stosur 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 in the fourth round. She improved to 18-3 in major quarterfinals and won her 48th match at Roland Garros (against 10 losses), breaking a tie with Serena Williams for the most among active players.
Williams, the world No. 1, barely added to her total at this year's tournament because she was no match in the second round for Muguruza, a 20-year-old Venezuelan-born Spaniard ranked No. 35. With her easy power and beautiful forehand and serve, Muguruza has been a player to watch for a while. But she has struggled to harness her game consistently, sometimes going from good to bad from point to point, and she entered the French Open 0-5 against top-five players and 3-8 against the top 10. In her two most recent tournaments, she had lost to Stosur in the second round of the Madrid Open and to No. 61 Francesca Schiavone in the second round of the Italian Open.
The French Open was a different story, though, as she crushed Williams 6-2, 6-2, followed that upset with two more routine victories and rolled early against Sharapova. Muguruza dominated the first set on Tuesday by breaking three times in five chances and hitting only seven unforced errors compared to 13 for Sharapova, who served at only 55 percent and won 2-of-9 second-serve points.
Sharapova, however, showed some of her trademark fight in the second set. After giving away a break lead with back-to-back double faults, the 27-year-old Russian had to hold at 4-5 to stay in the match. Muguruza then played a poor service game to get broken, and Sharapova served out the set.
"A lot of the games in the first set she was always up 30‑Love, 40‑Love, and then I'd win a point or two," Sharapova said. "Then she's the one with the confidence. You never are giving her a chance to think. In the second set, when you're making her hit a second ball after her serve or when you're being a bit more aggressive on the second serves, taking a bit more chances, all of a sudden she's not hitting so freely."
The key point of the third set came when Sharapova saved five break points while serving at 2-1. Both women struggled to string together two good points in the 10-minute game, with Muguruza taking the more offensive stance and forcing Sharapova to defend. Sharapova struggled all day with the depth on her shots and couldn't open up the court consistently enough to hit through her young opponent. But the Muguruza forehand broke down under pressure and began to leak errors. Sharapova finally earned the hold, won the next game for a double-break lead, at 4-1, and coasted from there.
"I knew that the match wasn't over," Sharapova said, when asked about the quick first set. "I still had a fair bit of time to change things around. Little by little I started playing a bit better, started getting in the court a little bit more, playing a little bit more aggressive, serving better than I did in the first set, returning as well, giving myself more looks at break points."
Said Muguruza: "It's tough now because I had the opportunity to win the match said. "But I need more experience in these kind of matches. I think I played very good in three sets, but in the important moments I need to improve my mentality."
A four-time Grand Slam champion, Sharapova avoided becoming the latest upset victim in the women's tournament, which has lost seven of the top-10 seeds. Along with Sharapova, the other top-10 seeds still in the draw are No. 4 Simona Halep and No. 10 Sara Errani. Halep plays No. 27 Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals on Wednesday and Errani meets No. 28 Andrea Petkovic.
Sharapova will play No. 18 Eugenie Bouchard in the semifinals. Bouchard defeated No. 14 Carla Suarez Navarro 7-6 (4), 2-6, 7-5 despite trailing 2-5 in the first set and 1-4 in the third. The 20-year-old Canadian was touted as "The Next Sharapova" during her semifinal run at the Australian Open, and she's not an opponent Sharapova will take lightly.
"The younger generation is ambitious," Sharapova said. "That's why they are in these stages of the tournament."
Here's some of the Twitter reaction to yet another great escape by Sharapova:
Sharapova is like a tea bag. Put her into hot water and ul find out how strong she is.
— judy murray (@judmoo) June 3, 2014
And Sharapova now clothes her. RT @linzsports: This is EVERYTHING. RT @joyceeng61: Maria vs. Genie, a #tbt semi. pic.twitter.com/rtAqc4mU5j
— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) June 3, 2014
Sharapova has won 25 of last 26 clay-court 3-set matches, incl. 18-straight; last 3-set loss on clay was at 2010 RG (l. Henin) #RG14
— Kevin Fischer (@Kfish_WTA) June 3, 2014
It's been said a thousand times, but @MariaSharapova has incredible will power. Never, ever gives up. And well played Muguruza, too
— Simon Cambers (@scambers73) June 3, 2014
Sharapova owes Muguruza the world's best fruit basket for taking out Serena for her. No woman has ever beaten Serena+Maria at a Slam. #RG14
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) June 3, 2014
I had to clarify to Maria Sharapova that Judy Murray is Andy's mom. Gasps among the British press corp, I'm sure. pic.twitter.com/IxQ15vQjyQ — Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) June 3, 2014