Two of the French Open favourites take centre stage as Elina Svitolina meets Simona Halep for a first ever Roland Garros semifinal.
(5) Elina Svitolina [No.6] vs (3) Simona Halep [No.4]
Overview: Simona Halep has been impressive throughout the clay court swing, amassing a 16-2 record on the clay, with a semifinal in Stuttgart, a title in Madrid, a final in Rome and she has now reached the quarterfinals of the French Open. Coming into Roland Garros after rolling her ankle in the final of Rome against Elina Svitolina, Halep was ’50-50′ to enter the tournament. However, the Romanian has done really well this week; starting with a 6-2 6-3 win over Jana Cepelova, she fended off a tenacious Tatjana Maria in straight sets. More impressive results came as the World No.4 dished out a bagel over Daria Kasatkina before the Russian stormed back to lead 5-3 in the second set, even having set points, but she was unable to convert and Halep ran away with the match. She was even better against Carla Suarez Navarro, sending out a double breadstick to the Spaniard. It was a win that had confirmed Halep’s status as the favourite for the title, she was dictating play from the start and if she continues to performlike this she will be extremely difficult to beat.
Elina Svitolina has had a breakout season so far, and it looks to continue in Roland Garros. Ending the year at No.14 in the rankings, she has climbed all the way to No.6 and she is set to climb into the Top 5 at the end of this week. The Ukranian has won four titles this season – after a so-so January, she won the International title in Taipei City. Although she did not beat a single Top 50 player enroute to the title, it was a stepping stone for Svitolina as she captured trophies in Dubai (i. Wozniacki) and Istanbul (i. Mertens), and most recently in Rome where she showed her prowess on the terre battue, beating Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza (retirement) and Simona Halep to collect her second Premier 5 title. Things have not been that straightforward for Svitolina in Roland Garros though; enduring a tight two-setter against Yaroslava Shvedova, Svitolina had to come from a set down against Tsvetana Pironkova (who only seems to pop up during the French and Wimbledon) and Petra Martic (the Croatian was leading 5-2, 30-0 before Svitolina come back). The World No.6 was not playing her best tennis in all her matches and she cannot do that if she wants to beat a player like Halep.
Head to head: The duo are tied at one win apiece; Svitolina obviously won their previous encounter in Rome where Halep looked on course for the trophy until she rolled her ankle.
Thoughts: Both players are great defenders, can turn defence into offence and are great movers on the clay, especially Halep. The Romanian has been dictating play all tournament long and will have to do that against Svitolina, who can always retrieve the balls back from anyway on the court. However, Svitolina has not been playing her best tennis this week. In her match against Petra Martic, Martic was dictating play in the first set and Svitolina really struggled to take the first step in attacking and she was slightly sloppy in her defence. She also was struggling with her back, felt pain before the match.