Friday, June 05, 2015

2015 FRENCH OPEN: Women's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Serena Williams [1] (USA) vs Lucie Safarova [13] (CZE)
The 2015 women's singles championship of the French Open at Roland Garros will be played between Serena Williams of the United States and Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic. 

Last year I correctly predicted that Maria Sharapova would defeat Simona Halep in the final.  This year I correctly predicted 1 of 2 women's semifinals4 of 4 women's quarterfinals3 of 4 men's quarterfinals and 0 of 1 men's semifinals. 

Women's Semifinals Review
Serena Williams [1] d. Timea Bacsinszky [23] 4-6 6-3 6-0After a quick quarterfinal win against Sara Errani many observers (yours truly included) believed that Serena would make quick work of the remaining obstacles to her 3rd career French Open title. However, for the fourth time in six matches Serena surrendered the first set of the match, thus forcing herself to make a dramatic comeback to remain in the tournament. This time it was down a set and a break (6-4 3-2) when Serena finally got animated and started breaking her opponent's serve and going for broke on her own shots. Serena was clearly ailing during this match, walking lethargically around the court, coughing repeatedly and appearing wan and forlorn on change-overs. The strategy worked and Serena won the last 10 games of the match to earn  a 4-6 6-3 6-0 win that she claimed was as surprising to her as it was unremarkable to everyone else.

Lucie Safarova [13] d Ana Ivanovic [8] 7-5 7-5. Ivanovic began the match displaying all the qualities that led her to win this title 7 years ago at the tender age of 20: powerful forehand and aggressive hitting on the backhand wing which helped her storm out to a 4-1 lead quickly. But then things slowly got away from her. Safarova started putting more spin on her lefty forehand and exploited Ivanovic's peculiar service toss to begin most of the Serb's service points with tactical advantages and won 6 of the last 7 games of the first, taking it 7-5. Things did not get much better for Ivanovic in the second set as her forehand started losing its potency and her backhand started finding the net instead of the court. However, after squandering numerous opportunities to break back as Safarova buckled under the strain of closing out the match to reach her first ever major final, Ivanovic did manage to even the score at 5-all, only to fail to capitalize on this momentum and lost her serve again. The second time she served for the match Safarova did much better and ended the match on a positive note.

Women's Final Preview
Serena Williams is now 24-3 in major semifinals and is currently 19-4 in major finals. She has only lost to her sister Venus Williams (2000 U.S. Open and 2008 Wimbledon), Maria Sharapova (2004 Wimbledon) and Samantha Stosur (2011 U.S. Open) at the historic stage of a grand slam tournament and has won the last two major tournaments contested (2014 U.S. Open and 2015 Australian Open). She is playing for historic stakes, to reach 20 major titles, only the 3rd player ever to amass such a gaudy total and maintain the possibility of a second "Serena slam" by winning this year's Wimbledon. Can Lucie Safarova, a player whom has never beaten Serena in 8 previous attempts prevent this from happening? Well, technically, yes, she can. Safarova has the game and at age 28, the maturity, to win this match, in a similar way that Stosur won the 2011 U.S. Open final. But for that to happen, she would have to get a lot of assistance from Serena, which we also know is possible, because so far in this tournament Serena has played four 3-set matches whereas Safarova has yet to drop a set despite playing a very strong list of players Sabine Lisicki, Sharapova, Garbine Muguruza, Ivanovic. Safarova has been playing the important points better than all of these opponents, having been in 5 tiebreaks and won them all. Serena is 30-1 in all matches played this year (although somewhat significantly, her one loss has come to hard-hitting Czech lefty who resembles her opponent on Saturday). If Serena is off her game (which given that she has confirmed that she does have the flu) this could become an exciting match. That being said, it's incredibly difficult for first-time finalists to be successful and I find it hard to believe that Serena will not find a way to win her 20th major title on Saturday.
MadProfessah's pick: Serena.

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