The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Canada's Bouchard ready for French Open semifinal showdown with Sharapova

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PARIS - Eugenie Bouchard looked up to Russia's Maria Sharapova when the Canadian was first getting started in the sport.

Now she'll get a chance to meet her in a Grand Slam semifinal.

Bouchard and Sharapova are scheduled to meet Thursday at the French Open with a spot in the women's singles championship on the line. The Russian star has a big edge in experience, but Bouchard has shown with her strong play of late that she won't be intimidated on court.

"For sure I respect her," Bouchard said. "But now we're in the semis of a Grand Slam, so I'm going to respect her but not put her too high on a pedestal and really just battle. That's what it's going to be.

"I will leave everything on court and just focus on myself and try my best to win."

Bouchard's Twitter feed features a few pictures of the duo, including one from a 2002 tournament in Miami where a teenaged Sharapova was rising up the ranks and a young Bouchard was attending as a spectator.

Sharapova, seeded seventh and a four-time Grand Slam champion, owns a 2-0 record over Bouchard. She beat the Wimbledon junior champion last year in Miami and in the second round at Roland Garros.

For Bouchard, Sharapova represents nothing more than an formidable opponent on the clay. The 20-year-old Canadian said she ignores comparisons between her and the 27-year-old Russian.

"Of course she's a great champion, 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," she said. "But at the same time, of course I'm my own person and I just want to be myself on the court, and try and achieve what I want to achieve and just be seen as that."

Sharapova has an entourage which keeps her well insulated from the rest of the players on tour, so it's no surprise the pair have only a passing acquaintance.

"We're not friends, so there is that," said Bouchard. "Of course as a child I looked up to her and I remember watching her in the finals of Wimbledon.

"I thought what she was doing was so cool and I wanted to do the same thing."

Bouchard said that as a child, she was most interested in the older player's style.

"The first (thing) I noticed was her cute dresses and things like that when I was young," she said. "But of course, you know, achieving what she has she of course is very strong mentally.

"It is one of her strengths I think. I'm going to be ready for another battle, the semis of a Grand Slam, that's what you have to expect. I'm just looking forward to the challenge."

Bouchard, from Westmount, Que., will be competing in her second consecutive Grand Slam semifinal after losing to eventual champion Li Na earlier this year at the Australian Open.

The No. 18 seed is coming off an impressive three-set victory over Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain in quarter-final play Tuesday.

Bouchard was the third Canadian woman to reach the Roland Garros quarter-finals after Carling Bassett-Seguso (1984, 1986) and Helen Kelesi (1988, 1989). Bouchard and Bassett-Seguso are the only players to reach the semifinals at a Grand Slam (Bassett-Seguso, 1984 US Open).

It will be Sharapova's 18th career Grand Slam semifinal appearance.

She lost in the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2011, then won the title a year later to complete a career Grand Slam. Sharapova lost in last year's final to Serena Williams.

———

With files from The Associated Press.

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