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PARIS -- Canadas Eugenie Bouchard played like someone who belonged in the final four of a Grand Slam on Thursday. She gave Maria Sharapova a stiff challenge at the French Open before the Russian veteran pulled away late for a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory, derailing Bouchards attempt to become the first Canadian to reach a major singles final in the Open era. As painful as the defeat was for the 20-year-old from Westmount, Que., it will go down as another valuable learning experience on the heels of her first Grand Slam semifinal appearance at this years Australian Open. A look of dejection was etched on her face as she left the court after the nearly 2 1/2-hour long match. It was clear Bouchard wasnt just happy to be on the big stage. She wanted the victory and was crushed when it didnt happen. "She was actually very, very disappointed," Canadian Fed Cup team captain Sylvain Bruneau said on a conference call. "She was not speaking much and I think it shows how much she believes in herself. Sometimes those tough losses are painful but sometimes theyre good. "Sometimes you learn from it and they hurt a little bit and the next time youre in this position, you do a couple things differently and the outcome is different." Sharapova, the No. 7 seed, lost the first set for the third straight match, but again managed to turn things around. "It was a tough battle, it was what I expected," said Bouchard. "I didnt play as well as I had earlier in the tournament. Its always disappointing to be a bit off. I needed to be aggressive and go for my shots." Sharapova won eight of the last 10 games, and has now won 19 straight three-set matches on clay. "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," she said. "If it takes three hours to win the match in three sets, I will be ready for that." Sharapova completed a career Grand Slam by winning the title at Roland Garros in 2012, but lost to Serena Williams in last years final. Bouchard, the No. 18 seed, was playing at the French Open for the only second time. Last year, she lost to Sharapova in the second round. "Im always disappointed with a loss," Bouchard said. "I expect a lot from myself. You know, I felt like I was close today and just came up a bit short. That happens sometimes. I feel like I played a lot of good matches the past two weeks, three weeks even, and so its sad to see it come to an end. "But it just motivates me ... I was still so close. That just gives me extra motivation to work hard in practice and get ready for the next one and have that belief that I can do it." Fourth-seeded Simona Halep of Romania defeated 28th-seeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-2, 7-6 (4) in the other semifinal. The final is scheduled for Saturday. Sharapova struggled a bit with her serve, double-faulting nine times and getting broken four times. But she made up for it with solid groundstrokes, either going for winners or waiting out errors from Bouchard. 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. "I dont feel that I played my best tennis, but to be in the semifinals of a Grand Slam and winning a match where I felt my opponent played extremely well, exceptional tennis, and I didnt feel that I was playing my best, I fought, I scrambled, and I found a way to win," Sharapova said. The Russian 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. "I constructed the points well but I didnt finish them as well as I could," Bouchard said. "In the third set, I didnt feel tired, but she does put so much pressure on you. She elevated her game later in the match, I tried to do my thing and I had a couple of chances but I didnt take my opportunities. "Maybe I let off a bit on my shots in the second and third sets." Bouchard, who lost to eventual champion Li Na at the Australian Open in January, saved four match points before Sharapova won it with a forehand that Bouchard missed on the other end. Bouchard and Carling Bassett-Seguso, who lost in the US Open semifinal in 1984, are the only Canadian singles players who have made the final four at a Grand Slam in the Open era. "The semis of a Grand Slam are always exciting," Bouchard said. "I felt good on the court. I enjoyed it on the big stage. I tried to compete (and gave it) my best. I love playing tennis so I enjoyed being out there. I actually felt better on court than I did in Australia." 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, its 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. The loss ended a 10-match winning streak on clay for Bouchard, who came to Paris after winning a warmup event in Germany. Sharapova owns a 3-0 career record against the Canadian. She also beat the former Wimbledon junior champion last year in Miami. In the late semifinal, Halep played aggressive tennis from the outset. She finished the first set with 12 winners and seven unforced errors, while Petkovic had only three winners and 14 unforced errors. The second set was much closer as Petkovic played with more consistency, but the 22-year-old Romanian was able to close it out in the tiebreaker with a forehand winner. Both Halep and Petkovic were playing in a major semifinal for the first time. Laurent Koscielny Jersey . PETERSBURG, Fla. Joel Campbell Jersey . Vettel only needs to finish fifth or better Sunday to wrap up the championship with three races remaining, and bettered his own lap record to claim his third straight pole at Buddh International Circuit. http://www.arsenalsoccerpro.com/Authent ... al-Jersey/. The Toronto Blue Jays star won his second consecutive Hank Aaron Award as the most outstanding offensive performer in the AL on Monday after votes by fans and a panel of Hall of Famers were tallied. Santi Cazorla Jersey . TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie tweeted that its believed the Flames are working towards a new contract with the defenceman. Mathieu Flamini Jersey . Speaking with TSN 1050 following Brendan Shanahans introductory press conference, the Leafs GM also addressed the clubs perceived leadership issues and the type of working relationship that can be expected within Torontos front office.CLEARWATER, Florida – Erik Kratzs friendship with R.A. Dickey, he who throws that strange knuckleball, is growing. At 33, back with the Blue Jays organization and tasked with catching a pitch Dickey once described as a "capricious animal," Kratz is a veteran who is evolving under the bright Florida sun. "Its a cool challenge, it really is," said Kratz of catching the knuckleball. "Its something that as any athlete, any competitor will say that the competition, the effort level is something that youre never going to be someone that says, I didnt quite give it all I had today, but in a sense you have to kind of just relax and let the game come to you, which you have to do normally, but as a catcher you kind of have to have that energy." Kratz is like any other ballplayer. Hes been at this game for years and has developed habits that suit his game and have become second nature. Some of these habits are obvious, things youre taught the moment you strap on catchers gear, like giving the pitcher a firm target. Throw up your glove as he enters his wind up. Will your battery mate to locate his pitch. It doesnt work that way catching Dickey. The knuckleballer doesnt want a target. When Dickey is on his game, he has a good idea of where his pitch will end up, but it still can be unpredictable. Kratz is still at the point where hes reminding himself to let his glove rest over his left knee in his crouch, even when Dickey throws his fastball. Kratz has to be consistent every pitch or the hitter could know whats coming. Its a different mindset and he admits he finds it mentally taxing. "Thats something that as a catcher, I take pride in receiving the ball," he said, moving his left hand as if to put up a target. "I take pride in making the pitch look good. Its something that is a hard habit to break, but on the same hand, its something Ive got to be cognizant of that. I call fastball, normally Im like, Hey, lets get it out there; whoops, maybe not because I dont want to tip his pitches." When youre tasked with catching the knuckleball, you have to set your ego aside. "Its a part of my game that I feel is, not to sound conceited, but I feel like Im pretty good at it," said Kratz of his receiving prowess behind the plate. "I feel like Im really good at it. (Catching the knuckleball is) a challenge that is exciting and every time I go out there, kind of at the beginning I was like, jeez, now Im like lets go out there and do it and see what I can get." The battery-mates spend a lot of time together. Dickey says Kratz has "improved" at handling his pitch. The Blue Jays havent publicly committed to Kratz as the second catcher behind Dioner Navarro, saying that the other alternative, Josh Thole, has an extensive history with Dickey and the club needs to see whether Kratz can do the job.dddddddddddd Navarro hasnt played in more than 89 games since 2009, making it likely the Jays will need their backup to play more often. Assuming thats the case, the club requires reasonable improvement over Tholes .175/.256/.242 slash line he posted last season. Kratz has hit 18 home runs in 375 at-bats over the last two seasons playing for the Phillies. He is a low batting average, low on-base percentage hitter but he at least is a threat to go deep. Acquired from Philadelphia, along with left-handed pitcher Rob Rasmussen, for reliever Brad Lincoln on December 3, the former Blue Jays draft pick is preparing as if the job is his. Kratz is using a first basemans glove, instead of an oversized catchers mitt, although, he may revert if he finds a prototype with more flexibility. Each time hes catching Dickey in a bullpen session, he simulates game situations in his mind. Kratz will pretend theres a runner on third. If the knuckleball gets by him, chances are that run scores. Its not quite like live game action, but hes trying to put himself in the right frame of mind. Its important not only for himself, Kratz believes, but also for his teammates. He needs to project the right aura. His is the only position each of his teammates can on the field see in front of them. "If you have a bad energy catcher, you have a bad energy team, in my opinion," said Kratz. "The best teams that have guys that are high energy, you look at them and theyre in every play and theyre ready to go." DICKEY WORKS IN TRIPLE-A GAME While the Blue Jays lost a Grapefruit League game 6-3 to the Rays in Port Charlotte on Saturday, R.A. Dickey was pitching in a Triple-A game in Clearwater, against the Phillies Lehigh Valley Ironpigs affiliate. He logged 7 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks. Dickey struck out two hitters. He threw 100 pitches, 60 of which were strikes. "Its a great mental exercise to come out here and execute your pitches regardless of the situation, surroundings, competition," said Dickey. "Im competing against myself more than I am those guys, anyway, so its a great exercise for me." "I feel more ready," said Dickey. "Now, Im going to take that into the season with me. Its no guarantee that things are going to be perfectly smooth, but at the same time the way that I feel brings a level of confidence with it that I dont have when youre not as prepared. And, yes, I do feel more ready." Dickey has two more starts before he takes the mound on opening day, March 31, against the Rays in St. Petersburg. The first, in which he plans to throw another 100 pitches, will be in a minor-league game, likely on Friday. He will make a shorter start on March 26 versus the Yankees in Dunedin. Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys Jerseys From China Wholesale NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys ' ' '


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