French Open: Surprise contenders

Halep, junior champion at Roland Garros in 2008, will face Andrea Petkovic for a place in Saturday’s final.

By: Reuters | Paris | Updated: June 5, 2014 10:37:45 am
Andrea Petkovic defeated Italy's Sara Errani 6-2, 6-2 in the French Open quarters (Source: Reuters) Andrea Petkovic defeated Italy’s Sara Errani 6-2, 6-2 in the French Open quarters (Source: Reuters)

Simona Halep, the wily Romanian fourth seed, outfoxed former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 6-2 6-2 on Wednesday to reach her first grand slam semi-final. Halep, junior champion at Roland Garros in 2008, will face Andrea Petkovic for a place in Saturday’s final after the German beat former runner-up Sara Errani of Italy.

Russian 27th seed Kuznetsova, who won the title in 2009 to go with her 2004 U.S. Open title, took a medical timeout after the first set and came back with her left thigh strapped.

“I strained a muscle during the (last 16) match against Safarova, and then I was struggling with the pain,” Kuznetsova said. “I managed to do it without a medical timeout in the Safarova match, but today it got worse.” Kuznetsova wasted break points early in the second set and made too many unforced forehand errors as Halep wrapped it up on the first match point when her opponent netted a service return.

Not a hard hitter, Halep compensates for her relative lack of power with her tactical nous.

“I felt very well on court. It was a perfect day for me. I played really well. I was very aggressive. I played very fast,” Halep said.


It is fair to say that Novak Djokovic and Ernests Gulbis have long held different approaches on how to become a top tennis player, yet the Serbian world number two and the reformed Latvian playboy will meet in the semi-finals of the French Open.

Gulbis lived on junk food and partied through the night, Djokovic, meanwhile, adopted a gluten-free diet and took training seriously. So what do they have in common? They both attended the Niki Pilic tennis academy in Germany.

“Should I say what I remember of him?” six-times grand slam champion Djokovic said with a smile after beating Canadian Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals of Roland Garros on Tuesday.

“He was always somebody who was very enthusiastic about everything in life, and you could see he wanted to enjoy it with open arms.” Gulbis, who knocked out Roger Federer in the last 16 in Paris before reaching the last four with a comfortable win over Tomas Berdych, said Djokovic was already behaving like a champion as a teenager.


Just like her one-time idol Maria Sharapova, Eugenie Bouchard likes a scrap, as she proved again by twice overturning daunting deficits to clinch a French Open semi-final spot on Tuesday.

The 20-year-old Canadian trailed 5-2 in the first set and 4-1 in the third before fighting back to send Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro packing 7-6(4) 2-6 7-5. She will have to summon that same never-say-die spirit when she meets 2012 champion Sharapova in the last four after the Russian clawed her way to a three-set victory over Spain’s Garbine Muguruza. “At the end of the day, whether I win or lose, I want to at least leave it all there and try and at least battle,” Montreal-based Bouchard, beaten by Sharapova in the second round a year ago, told reporters.

After reaching her second straight grand slam semi-final, the 18th seed sought to play down the oft-used description of her as the “next Sharapova”, both for her style of play and her looks, saying she just wants to be herself on court.

“I respect her. But now, you know, we’re in the semis of a grand slam, so I’m going to respect her but not put her too high on a pedestal and really just battle,” the 20-year-old said. At seven years her senior, Sharapova first caught the Canadian’s eye at a tournament in Miami — when the young pretender was watching in the crowd.

“I was watching the Miami tournament and a photo was taken of her and me when I was seven or eight. And then after this, I remember when she won Wimbledon (in 2004) I was watching her on TV, and I thought, wow, what she’s doing is cool. I want to do the same,” she said at the memory of Sharapova’s London title aged just 17.


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