The top seeds in the bottom half have surprisingly navigated through their draw as No.3 seed Simona Halep takes on World No.3 and possibly No.1 next week, Karolina Pliskova.
(3) Simona Halep [No.4] vs (2) Karolina Pliskova [No.3]
Overview: Simona Halep has been impressive throughout the clay court swing, starting with semifinals in Stuttgart, then a title in Madrid, a final in Rome and she has now reached the semifinals 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. Her most difficult test came against Elina Svitolina – down 3-6 1-5, Halep reeled off five straight games before Svitolina pegged her back, saving four set points to force a tiebreaker. The Ukrainian had a match point up 6-5 in the tiebreak, but Simona showed her new mental toughness, painting the lines to save match point. The net was even on Halep’s side and on her fifth set point she converted it with a net cord winner! Svitolina faded away in the decider but it was Halep’s fighting mentalities that shone through, showing us the ‘new Simo’.
Karolina Pliskova has quietly navigated through her draw, reaching her first Roland Garros semifinal. She is not known to do well on the clay, and that showed as she fell in the early rounds in Stuttgart, Prague and Madrid. She made some progress in Rome though by reaching the quarterfinals, beating clay court stalwart Timea Bacsinszky enroute. I must say that Pliskova has benefitted from a pretty open draw, but she has done well throughout this week to make a deep run even though she has not been playing her best tennis. Scraping through her first four rounds against Zheng Saisai, Ekaterina Alexandrova, Carina Witthoeft and Veronica Cepede Royg (none of them are in the Top 60) with the loss of two sets, the Czech player showed much more conviction in her straight sets win over Caroline Garcia in a very clean display, hitting 25 winners to only 13 unforced errors.
Stat: If Pliskova beats Halep today, she will take over the No.1 ranking. If Halep beats Pliskova and goes on to win the title, Halep will become No.1.
Thoughts: Pliskova has hardly had a tough opponent this week – her opponent’s average ranking is actually 70. Halep will be Pliskova’s first Top 5 opponent on clay this season. It has relatively been a good match-up for Halep and on clay Pliskova’s weapons would be neutralised. The Czech did a pretty good job against Garcia, she hit only 13 unforced errors which is a very impressive stat for Pliskova and she’ll have to do that again if she wants to stand a chance to win this match. I think Halep will be able to dictate play and try to exploit Pliskova’s movement – if she is successful, she should be in the final.