Thursday, June 06, 2013

2013 FRENCH OPEN: Women's Semifinals Preview

The women's semifinals are now set at the 2013 French Open. This year, I predicted 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly and 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly. Last year I correct predicted 1 of 2 women's semifinals and 2 of 2 men's semifinals. I will also preview the 2013 French Open men's semifinals.

Serena Williams (USA) [1] vs Sara Errani (ITA) [5]. Errani surprised yours truly and other observers of the game by overcoming her lifetime record of 0-28 against Top 5 players to defeat World #4 Aggie Radwanska. This may be because the diminutive Italian is now ensconced in the Top 5 of the WTA rankings herself. For the second consecutive year she is in the semifinals of Roland Garros, and her 3rd major semifinal in the last year. Unfortunately, she will be facing someone who easily beat her in the Madrid semifinals less than a month ago and whom she has only ever won a single set out of the 11 that they have played.

It was the exceedingly talented Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova who demonstrated what one needs to do to compete with the World #1. After losing the first set quickly 6-1, Sveta was able to break Serena's serve for the first time in the tournament in the second set, and then she did it again to go up 4-0! Eventually she was able to even up the match by winning the second set. The key point of the match came in the 3rd game of the deciding set when Serena was down 0-2 and serving. She repeatedly faced breakpoints to go down 0-3 but through sheer will she was able to finally hold serve and reeled off 5 games in a row to put remove all doubt from her place in the semifinals. This was probably the best match of the tournament, and was the most mentally significant for Serena because she had lost the last four quarterfinals she played at Roland Garros. Serena has only lost once in a semifinal here, and  it is extremely unlikely that will happen this year. Mad Professah's pick: Serena.

Victoria Azarenka (BLR) [3] vs Maria Sharapova (RUS) [2].  Despite suffering the indignity of being forced to eat a bagel in the first set of her quarterfinal match against her least favorite person on tour, Jelena Jankovic, Sharapova was able to come through and eventually win the match 0-6 6-4 6-3 and reach her third consecutive semifinal here in as many years. Azarenka had an easier time to reach her first Roland Garros semifinal by dispatching Maria Kirilenko who is probably just satisfied that her singles results have elevated her to the WTA Top 10. This is a very hard match to call.
Sharapova and Azarenka have played 12 times in their career, with Vika leading Masha 7-5 overall, but the Russian leads the Belarussian 2-0 on clay. Sharapova is the defending champion here but Azarenka won the first major of the year in Australia. On most surfaces I would give the edge to Azarenka, because she is generally the better mover and she matches Sharapova's power on both wings. On clay, however, Sharapova has demonstrated that she is now comfortable and has dramatically improved her defensive abilities on this surface. I believe it will be a very close match but that Sharapova will reach her 2nd consecutive Roland Garros final. Mad Professah's pick: Sharapova in 3 sets.

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