French Open Semi-finals Preview: Battle of birthday girls while Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova chase World No 1

French Open women's semifinals will see Karolina Pliskova take on Simona Halep and Jelena Ostapenko faces Timea Bacsinszky. All four women are vying for their first Grand Slam title with World No 1 crown on the line for Pliskova and Halep.

Written by Tanuj Lakhina | Updated: June 8, 2017 1:08 pm
french open, french open preview, french open semifinal, pliskova, indian express Karolina Pliskova will become the new World No 1 if she beats Simona Halep in the semifinal. (Source: Reuters)

There is something for all four ladies in the semi-finals of the French Open in Paris. When they take court on Thursday evening, the first and foremost priority would be to get a win and move into the final on Saturday with a shot at the Suzanne-Lenglen Cup. None of the four women have won a Grand Slam and come Saturday, someone would add “1” to their list of Grand Slam titles.

After the mixed doubles final involving Rohan Bopanna (read more on that here), the women’s semi-final will be played on Philippe-Chatrier with Jelena Ostapenko taking on Timea Bacsinszky and that will be followed by Simona Halep vs Karolina Pliskova.

Halep vs Pliskova – Tussle for top rank

On Wednesday, Halep was all but out of the French Open against Elina Svitolina. And yet, 24 hours or so later, she would be playing in the next round. The Romanian was down 3-6, 1-5 to Svitolina who has mustered the most titles this year and looked to be headed to the exit door. But she survived, saving a match point in the process, to eventually win 3-6, 7-6, 6-0.

The stakes for the semifinal will be higher than just booking a place in the final: if Pliskova wins, she takes over as World No 1 – replacing Angelique Kerber. If Halep wins and goes on to win the title, she will take over as World No 1. However, should Halep win today and then lose in the final, Kerber stays as top-ranked player in the world.

Both these women have come close to winning a Grand Slam but fell just short. Halep was the runner-up in Paris in 2014 while Pliskova lost in the US Open final last year. For Pliskova, number one ranking will work as a big motivator in the semifinal against Halep who she has beaten just once in five matches. This will be their first meeting on clay.

“There cannot be something bigger than to play for being world No. 1,” Pliskova said. “But there’s so much in the game: There’s a Grand Slam final here, and the other side of the draw is pretty open. I think this is going to be the toughest match, maybe, of my career. And on clay, to play Simona, I think it’s going to be very tough. I’m not without chances — definitely I have some weapons — but it’s going to be tough,” she said.

Happy birthday? Just for a bit

ostapenko, french open, french open preview, french open semifinal, indian express Jelena Ostapenko takes on Timea Bacsinszky in a contest of birthday girls. (Source: Reuters)

The other semifinal, first to feature, will have gutsy Latvian Ostapenko take on Swiss Bacsinszky. Incidentally, both of them share their birthday – which is on Thursday – and one would get to blow the candles full of smiles and a place in the final booked. Where Ostapenko turns 20, Bacsinszky will turn 28.

Ostapenko became the first teenager to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam since Ana Ivanovic did in 2007. And she did so at the expense of former World No 1 Caroline Wozniacki all while spanking 38 winners. Prior to that, against Sam Stosur, another Grand Slam winner, she had sent in 46 winners.

But things would get trickier against the much experienced Bacsinszky who has already shown her mental toughness by beating Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic who had the Parisian crowd behind her in a rain-affected match.

“Her chances are excellent if she plays with 90 percent of her ability, I think she would have a chance to win the whole thing,” Mats Wilander told Reuters. “She has so much power but the worrying thing is she throws in matches where she is less than 50 percent and she could beat herself. Is she mature enough to play Bacsinszky and not just close her eyes and blaze away?”

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