French Open 2014 Women's Semifinals: Petkovic vs. Halep Preview and Prediction

Brendan O'Meara@@BrendanOMearaFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2014

French Open 2014 Women's Semifinals: Petkovic vs. Halep Preview and Prediction

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    The resurgent Andrea Petkovic and Simona Halep made their quarterfinal matches on Wednesday look easy. Petkovic, ranked 28th, ousted Sara Errani 6-2, 6-2 and Halep, ranked fourth, dusted Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 French Open champ, 6-2, 6-2.

    One athlete hasn't competed in the French Open since 2011. The other hasn't been past the second round until this year. They play each other in the semifinals Thursday.

    Both, in many ways, have surprised many by making it this far. Let's examine this matchup as both players stand just one match away from a Saturday final at Roland Garros.

Who Has the Historical Edge?

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    Halep has the advantage over Petkovic in the three matches they've played, 2-1. In Bucharest, Petkovic won their first meeting. But that was five years ago.

    The two met twice in 2013 with Halep defeating Petkovic in the final in a clay tournament in Nurnberg. Halep defeated Petkovic again, this time on hard court, in Tokyo in the round of 32. 

    Clearly Halep is a star on the rise, as she is ranked No. 4 in the world. Petkovic is 27th.

Petkovic at the French Open

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    Since turning pro in 2006, Petkovic has played in just four French Opens. Her best finish was when she lost in the quarterfinals in 2011. This is her first French Open since then, and she broke through to reach the semis.

    Petkovic has been plagued by injuries to her back, right ankle and knee. After nearly quitting the sport, she's back in top form.

    Petkovic told Zee News, "It's nice to be back at the big stages again. It's just what we all dream about and what we all work for. So it's just also a confirmation for having stuck to my comeback and pushing through the hard times."

Halep at the French Open

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    The 22-year-old is hitting her stride at Roland Garros. Since she made her debut at Paris in 2010, she has lost in the first round, second round, first round and first round. Now she's just one match away from reaching the final.

    In Madrid she lost in the final to Maria Sharapova prepping for the French Open, so it appears Halep is only now starting to find her groove and playing to the best of her abilities. She has won seven tournaments in the past year on all surfaces.

    Courtney Nguyen of Sports Illustrated's Beyond the Baseline wrote

    I’ve watched Halep play a lot of matches over the course of her career, but her last 12 months have been a revelation. It’s not easy to explain to people why Halep is so good, but talk to any regular tennis commentator and they can’t help but wax poetic about her.

The Biggest X-Factors

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    For Halep, it will have to be about composure and keeping her game clean. Granted, she breezed by Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-2, committing 20 unforced errors. Seeing as she hasn't advanced further than the second round at the French, it will be key for her not to let the stage affect her play. It hasn't so far.

    As for Petkovic, the injury bug has eluded her. She too cruised to a relatively easy win in her quarterfinal match against Sara Errani. Petkovic played a very clean game with only 19 unforced errors and landing 91 percent of her first serves. 

    Halep has won the last two meetings against Petkovic—one on clay, one on hard court—so it will interesting to see if Halep's class is too much for Petkovic to handle.

Petkovic Will Win the Semifinal If...

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    Petkovic defeated Sara Errani despite struggles with holding serve. Her groundstrokes consistently pinned Errani back and gave Petkovic the advantage.

    The confidence Petkovic earned by defeating Errani can't be overlooked. Errani moved deep in the French Open, losing in the final to Maria Sharapova in 2012 and losing in the semis to Serena Williams in 2013.

    If Petkovic holds serve and her powerful forehand remains strong, there's no reason why she can't advance to the final against either Sharapova or Eugenie Bouchard.

Halep Will Win the Semifinal If...

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    Halep simply needs to play a clean game. She's been one of the best players on any surface over the past year, winning seven titles combined on all surfaces. She's the highest ranked player left in the tournament, and if she plays as steady and soundly as she has, a berth in the final is imminent for this Romanian.

    She's got the youth, and she's on the verge of something special.

    "It's nice to see the younger generation breaking through," Mary Joe Fernandez said on espnW. "You have to remember that Serena won't be there forever. One of them, one of these days, is going to break through."


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    This is Halep's match to lose. She's got the historical edge and hasn't been injured as often as Petkovic. Halep is the highest remaining seed in the field and has been playing like the elite talent she is.

    Petkovic's story is great given that she almost gave up the game of tennis after hurting her knee in Australia.

    "One year ago I wanted to stop with tennis because I was awful," Petkovic said.

    Petkovic bested Halep in their first meeting five years ago, but that was when Halep was just 17 years old. Now Halep is No. 4 in the world, five years older and the better of the two players.