Lucie Safarova reached her maiden grand slam final with a 7-5,7-5 win over the 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic of Serbia at the Stade Roland Garros in Paris. The 13th seed from the Czech Republic recovered from a slow start in the first set after Ivanovic stormed to a 3-0 lead and then she consolidated her lead to 5-2. However in a dramatic turn of events Safarova reeled off 8 of the next 9 games.
Later she found herself serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set. She double faulted on her first set point and despite saving three break points allowed the former champion to level the score at 5-5. She broke serve rightaway and won the last service game at 30 clinching the win on her second matchpoint with a forehand winner. The left handed Safarova who had upset the Russian Maria Sharapova in the round of 16 hit 36 winners, exactly 18 from the forehand wing. Her previous best showing was a semi-final loss to countrywoman Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon last year. It will be the first time that both Czech women will be ranked in the top ten. The last was in October 1998 when Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova were in the top 10.
Later in the day World number one Serena Williams came from a set down for the fourth time at this year’s French Open to end the hopes of Timea Bacsinszky 4-6,6-3,6-0. The American who won the title in 2002 and 2013 had to rally from a break of serve down in the second set as she trailed 4-6,2-3. Her response was befitting a 19 time major winner as she swept the last 10 games to win the 1 hour 54 minute match on court Phillipe Chatrier. The 25 year old Swiss who had almost given up on tennis two years ago to pursue a career in Hotel Management will rise to a career high 15 in the WTA rankings on Monday.
The men’s semi-final line up to be played on Friday with my pick mentioned first (seeds in parenthesis with 2015 record)
Novak Djokovic (1) (40-2) v. Andy Murray (3) (36-5); Djokovic leads 18-8
Stanislas Wawrinka (8) (27-8) v. Jo Wilfred Tsonga (14) (11-5) ; both players won 3 matches apiece.
Both Djokovic and Murray are unbeaten on European clay with 15 wins apiece, Djokovic is bidding to complete the career slam and has not dropped a set in five matches. The man who he dethroned in the last eight, Rafael Nadal won the 2008 and 2010 French Open without dropping a set. Significantly, Murray last beat Djokovic in Wimbledon 2013 final but has since lost his last seven matches to the Serbian. His new found confidence on his least favoured surface was evident when inspite of squandering a match point in the third set which he lost subsequently, the Scot rose to the challenge and made short work of 2013 finalist David Ferrer of Spain.
Prediction: Djokovic in four tight sets.
Tsonga who was sidelined for the first two months of the year had to endure a five setter against Kei Nishikori as he squandered a two set lead. Wawrinka’s only good result on clay this year was a semi-final in Rome where he lost to the same player he beat in last eight Roger Federer. The pair have split their six meetings and the Swiss won their last match in front of a partisan crowd in the opening rubber of the Davis cup final in Lille, France. He came of age last year winning the Australian Open (beat Nadal) and Monte Carlo (beat Federer) claiming his first major and Masters title respectively. This match can be a classic and could be the most enthralling match of the tournament featuring two hard hitters.
Prediction: Wawrinka in five sets.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy.You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]