After rain delays and dramatic deficits, the women’s semifinals for the 2017 French Open is now established. Yesterday saw 19-year-old Jelena Ostapenko needing three sets to defeat Caroline Wozniacki and Timea Bacsinsky overcoming crowd favorite and French native Kristina Mladenovic in order to advance. And today we witnessed an incredible comeback from Simona Halep over Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova defeat another home-crowd favorite, Caroline Garcia.
SF #1: Ostapenko vs. Bacsinszky
Ostapenko was regarded as one of the players to watch at Roland Garros this year and now you can clearly see why. After losing the first set 6-4, the Latvian recovered and found her form blasting past the seasoned Wozniacki for the third time this year. It was a relatively untidy match from both players as their unforced errors outweighed the amount of winners they produced. Ostapenko’s ended the match with her winners to unforced errors ratio being 38:50 (-12) and Wozniacki’s being 6:25 (-19). The key was Ostapenko’s aggressive play, using her forehand to dictate play. She was most impressive when she finished points off at the net, winning 15/16 points (94%). Despite the loss, Wozniacki will leave Paris on a high note. This is the first time in 7 years since Wozniacki reached the quarters of the French Open. Perhaps she will feel more comfortable there in the future.
Up next for Ostapenko is Swiss sensation Timea Bacsinszky who needed just two sets to defeat Parisian hopeful Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 6-4. The match was tightly contested throughout but it was the unforced errors that proved to be Mladenovic’s downfall. She committed an astounding 34 unforced errors while only hitting 16 winners (-28) while Bacsinszky played a much cleaner game keeping her ratio almost completely even with 25 winners to 27 unforced errors (-2).
Bacsinszky and Ostapenko have never played each other, so it is difficult to pick a favorite. Bacsinszky reached the French Open semifinals in 2015 falling in three sets to Serena Williams. Will she be able to learn from the past or will the fiery Ostapenko continue her impressive form and reach the final?
Semifinal #2: Halep vs. Pliskova
Many believe that the winner between Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina will decide who wins the French Open title. Early on, it seemed as if Svitolina was going to emerge as the easy victor. She clinched the first set 6-3 and continued her fine form into the second set to build a 5-1 lead. Staring down a 6-3, 5-1 deficit, something activated within Halep: her pride. How dare she leave Paris with her tail in between her legs. The Romanian turned on her passion and ignited her comeback. Suddenly, 5-1 became 5-all and then the second set was forced into a tiebreaker. Svitolina had a match point but alas, Halep kept herself alive with a backhand winner and ultimately clinched the tiebreak and second set 7-6(6). From there on, Svitolina never mentally recovered from her second set collapse and Halep never looked back. Before you know it, Halep emphatically seals the match with an ace to finish Svitolina off 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-0.
Next up for Halep will be longtime foe Karolina Pliskova, who played some sublime tennis to dismantle French-youngster Caroline Garcia. It was a battle featuring superb serves, powerful groundstrokes, and undeniable courage. Pliskova started off the better of the two by breaking Garcia’s serve a twice to go up 5-3 but the feisty Garcia fought back by winning three straight games to lead the set 6-5. Garcia was two points away from the set until Pliskova played clutch tennis to ensure the first set would go to a tiebreak. The Czech powerhouse dominated the tiebreak clinching the first set 7-6(3). The second set was just as tightly contested as the two held serve until Pliskova managed to break Garcia in the ninth game. Up 5-4, Pliskova served it out and finished the match with a forehand winner to hand Garcia a well-fought 7-6(3), 6-4 defeat. The match was clean overall, with Pliskova firing an impressive 25 winners to only 13 unforced errors (+12) while Garcia finished with 29 winners and 31 unforced errors (-2).
Halep leads Pliskova in their head-to-head 4-1, with their most recent match being a 6-3, 6-3 victory in Toronto last summer. Although it may not bode well for Pliskova, this is the first time they are meeting on clay. Clay is one of Halep’s favorite surfaces, as she reached the finals in Paris three years ago. Regardless of surface, Pliskova will be the more aggressive of the two so the match is entirely in her hands. But, it is Halep’s to lose. This is Pliskova’s second Grand Slam semifinal and clay is her worst surface. Many believe Halep will dismantle Pliskova and win the title but nothing is certain.