Saturday, June 4, 2011

French Open: Semifinal Report & Finals Preview

Unlike last year when I only set one set of one semifinal match, I saw most of the matches this year and was absolutely thrilled with all of them. Weather made most of the matches tricky with the wind whipping up at the most random times messing with the players' shots and moving around the clay beneath that troubled some, but in the end four tennis players came out on top and they will play for glory this weekend.

If some people thought that Francesca Schiavone's win last year was a fluke then the ever-jubilant Italian proved those people wrong as she fought valiantly to reach her second straight French Open final with a chance to defend her title. She got through Marion Bartoli, a tricky opponent with the crowd solely behind her, in two pretty straightforward sets. In the final, she will face an opponent that many people did not expect to be there at the end of the tournament.

Like Schiavone, Na Li probably felt like she had a lot to prove. After reaching her first Grand Slam final at this year's Australian Open, Li bottomed out unable to win many matches. That was until she got to Roland Garros, her least favorite slam, where she just kept winning... and winning. She already took down three top 10 players including her semifinal opponent Maria Sharapova who knew that this was her best chance to reach a French Open final for the first time. Too bad her solid serve let her down when she really needed it and instead it was the Chinese player to achieve yet another milestone for herself and for her country.

Prediction: Their H2H is tied at 2-2, but Schiavone has won their only clay court match which was at least year's French Open where the Italian won 4-2 in straight sets. Li will have the power, but Schiavone will have the variety and the movement giving her the edge. Schiavone in 2 sets for her 2nd French Open title.

Five-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal celebrated his 25th birthday on the day he played his semifinal match against Andy Murray. While the scoreline says it was a straight set victory, as everyone expected, it was probably a tighter match than everyone anticipated. The conditions affected both players flustering a usually unflappable Nadal. In the end though, the Spaniard book his spot in his 6th French Open final, one way away from tying the tally set by Bjorn Borg. In the final, he will meet an all too familiar rival.

It has been 16 months since Roger Federer reached a Grand Slam final, but tomorrow he will contest his record 23rd slam final after triumphantly defeating the hottest player of the year. His semifinal opponent Novak Djokovic has had an amazing half a year winning every single match he has played (41-0 record; 7-0 against Federer and Nadal). With a win, Djokovic would've also claimed the #1 ranking. Aggressive, but smart play from Federer coupled with a flat-footed and disheartened Djokovic quickly put the Swiss up 2 sets. Djokovic was able to gut out the third set and serve for the 4th set until Federer came back to take the 4th to a tiebreak. Federer won that with the weapon he used so effectively throughout the match: his serve. Long live the King indeed.

Prediction: Is there a point in going over their lopsided H2H in Nadal's favor esp. Nadal's absolute dominance on clay and at the French Open in particular? The best thing Federer can hope for is to not get embarrassed on court like he was three years ago. THEN AGAIN Nadal hasn't shown his A-game all tournament and Federer's match with Djokovic might light the fire within. Still, Nadal in four sets for his 6th French Open crown.

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