2013 French Open: Semifinal Previews and Predictions
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There are four men and four women now remaining in the 2013 French Open. The list of eight remaining players is a strong one, and we should have at least three, if not four, very intriguing semifinal encounters over the next couple days.
The top two contenders on each side are still very much alive. Unfortunately for the men, the two favorites have a battle in the semis instead of the finals.
Another interesting factor for the men's semis is that for the first time since the 2010 French Open, there will be a Grand Slam semifinal contested without one of the Big Four in men's tennis (Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray). Murray withdrew from the tournament due to a bad back while Federer was upset in the quarters by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The Frenchman Tsonga will be looking to advance to his second career Grand Slam final (Australian Open 2008) while David Ferrer has never won a major semifinal.
The two women's favorites are the two top seeds—defending champion Maria Sharapova as well as world No. 1 Serena Williams. Not always known in the past for their play on the clay, that has really changed in the past two seasons.
They are joined in Thursday's semifinal matches by 2012 runner-up Sara Errani and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka. All four players are currently ranked in the top five in the world.
Within the next 96 hours, we will have two more Grand Slam champions crowned. Let's preview the four semifinals, in order of compelling factor.
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This match is a big mismatch on paper for the fifth-seeded Sara Errani. Serena Williams has not lost since February and owns a 5-0 career record against the Italian.
The two also met in the semifinal stage of the 2012 U.S. Open, where Errani only managed to win three games. She doesn't possess the power needed to challenge the 15-time grand slam champion.
This match should be a little closer than their U.S. Open encounter, however. Errani is much better on the clay where her defensive skills and variety will keep her in more points.
The American was on the ropes in her quarterfinal match, facing a few break points to go down two breaks in the third set against Svetlana Kuznetsova, who beat her in 2009 in Paris.
By battling back in that one, Williams finally broke through a stage where she has struggled at Roland Garros over the last decade. Now with the title just a few steps away, she is not going to be easy to take out.
Prediction: Williams should find herself back in the French Open finals for just the second time in her career. This match will be totally in her hands and if she plays anywhere near her best game, she will be looking at a straight-set victory.
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This match profiles as one of the more open Grand Slam semifinals in recent history. It is certainly reminiscent of Tomas Berdych going at it with Robin Soderling at the 2010 French Open, when Soderling rallied from two sets to one down to advance to the finals.
David Ferrer owns a 3-1 career record over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and will be relieved to finally be playing a lower-ranked player in the semis of a Grand Slam. He is 0-5 on this stage in his career, with the previous losses coming to Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.
Tsonga is playing with the pressure of trying to become the first French man to win this title since Yannick Noah in 1983. A major factor in this match will be how Tsonga deals with that as well as how he comes out after playing one of the best matches of his career to take out Roger Federer in the quarters.
If the electric Tsonga brings his best game, he will be able to control the points and potentially hit Ferrer off the court. The issue, though, is that he doesn't always have the consistency necessary to stay with the Spaniard over the long haul.
Ferrer's game style is to not beat himself and just wear out his opponent by getting balls back into play. He doesn't possess the power game of other top players but is as mentally tough as they come.
Prediction: The crowd will be rocking for this match, and Tsonga will be able to ride the momentum in a tight four-set victory.
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This match is a close one to call, and both players will be looking to do something for the first time in their careers.
Maria Sharapova has won the career slam, winning each of the four majors one time. She has never reached the finals of the slam that she is defending at in the following year, but that could change Thursday.
Victoria Azarenka will be looking to reach the finals of the French Open for the first time, having just advanced to her first semifinal with a win over Maria Kirilenko.
Azarenka gets another Russian Maria in the next round and holds a 7-5 advantage in head-to-head matchups. Sharapova is 2-0 on clay, but Azarenka is 2-0 in majors.
The surface might end up being the biggest X-factor in this encounter. Sharapova has only lost to one player on clay in the last two years (Serena Williams), while the Belarusian has had issues with her movement on the dirt but has been looking better.
In looking at their match scores after the quarters, one might favor Azarenka, as Sharapova had to battle back from losing a 6-0 first set to Jelena Jankovic. That was just an issue of the Russian not finding the court for about 20 minutes, but her mental toughness got her through.
Prediction: There is no doubt Sharapova will want revenge from losses to Azarenka at the Australian and U.S. Opens last season, and she'll get her wish in a tough three-set win.
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As soon as the 2013 French Open draw came out, everyone in the tennis world was looking forward to a semifinal encounter between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Both players had their obstacles, but the two dominant players in today's game will face off on Friday.
Nadal is of course the King of Clay, only losing one time in his career at Roland Garros. Djokovic represents his only real threat to that streak, as he has won three clay-court matches over the Spaniard in the last two years, including at Monte Carlo this April.
The Serb is looking to wrap up his career Grand Slam to join Nadal and Roger Federer as active players to hold that honor. He has even said that he has been gearing up to win this tournament specifically all season long.
If he does beat Nadal, he will be the favorite against whomever he faces in the finals, and not only would he complete the career Slam, but he would have two legs of the calendar Slam and firmly cement himself on top of the men's game.
The Spaniard's pressure for this match comes with holding down the fort in Paris. He is the three-time defending champion and has won the event seven out of eight times he's played it.
Nadal has been in pretty amazing form since returning in February of this year after not playing in Wimbledon last summer. He has reached the finals of every tournament he's played in 2013 and will be looking to continue that streak.
Nadal's best two assets on clay are being able to wear down his opponent, especially in a best-of-five format, and break down their backhands with his lefty forehand.
Djokovic is as fit as they come and has the ability to go toe-to-toe with Nadal on clay. He also has the best two-handed backhand in the game and is not bothered by Nadal's ball coming to that side. His ability to play both offense and defense is another reason he can stay with the Spaniard when no one else can.
When Nadal won their encounter in last year's final, he struggled when there was some issues with rain and cooler conditions. The outlook for Friday is a hot, clear day, which is exactly what he wants. The ball will be kicking up more instead of staying low to the ground.
Prediction: This has the makings of another epic match, much like they had at the Australian Open Final in 2012. If the conditions remain the way they have this week (as they should), look for Nadal to get back to the Roland Garros final for the eight time in nine years in a five-set marathon win.