A wild start to the 2014 French Open has made way for a mostly scratch close in Roland Garros. After early favorites like Serena Williams, Stanislas Wawrinka and Li Na were bounced, other contenders have stepped up to fight for the crown.
On the women's side, Maria Sharapova has taken over the title as the favorite after Williams' loss. Sharapova will have to defeat upstart Eugenie Bouchard, who is in her second consecutive semi after falling in the Australian Open in the same round.
Joining the two women on the Philippe Chatrier court will be No. 4 Simona Halep and No. 28 Andrea Petkovic. Both women are playing in their first ever semifinal against one another but are playing the best tennis of their young lives heading into the matchup.
Before the action officially gets underway in Roland Garros, here's a look at the full schedule and predictions for the Day 12 matches.
|No. 7 Maria Sharapova vs. No. 18 Eugenie Bouchard||Tennis Channel/ESPN2||9 a.m. ET||Sharapova|
|No. 4 Simona Halep vs. No. 28 Andrea Petkovic||Tennis Channel/ESPN2||After prev. match||Halep|
Sharapova Blisters Bouchard En Route Third Consecutive Final
The Russian may have taken over the title as favorite after Williams was dismissed, but she certainly deserved to be considered one beforehand.
After winning her first French Open in 2012, Sharapova navigated her way to the final once again before being ousted by the No. 1 player. Now that she's back into the semifinals, there doesn't appear to be anything stopping her from winning the entire tournament.
Freelance writer Chris Skelton alluded to that fact after the semis were set:
Sharapova is 8-1 against the other semifinalists (3-0 on clay) (only loss to Petkovic at 2011 Australian Open).— Chris Skelton (@ChrisSkelton87) June 4, 2014
Meanwhile, Bouchard isn't exactly worried about facing Sharapova in the semifinals. Bouchard spoke about the chance to face one of her childhood idols, per Chris Chase of USA Today:
We’re not friends, so there is that. Of course as a child I looked up to her and I remember watching her in the finals of Wimbledon and, you know, thought what she was doing was so cool and I wanted to do the same thing. 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.
Well, that wasn't expected.
Those feelings come after a photo of Bouchard and Sharapova together surfaced from when both players were much younger, via Joyce Eng of TVGuide.com:
The two have faced off against one another twice over their careers, with Sharapova taking both matches. One of those wins came last season in the second round of the French Open, with Sharapova winning in straight sets.
With Sharapova off to a rousing pace at the French Open this year yet again, she appears destined for a third straight final. Bouchard will be worthy competition, but the 20-year-old might still be a few years away from reaching a Grand Slam final.
Halep Halts Petkovic's Run In Three-Set Showdown
If Halep wins, she secures a berth to her first ever final. A victory for Petkovic would mean the same thing.
Either way, history will be made on Thursday in Paris.
Halep is fresh off a run at the Australia Open where she was ultimately bounced by Bouchard in the quarterfinals. Now the No. 4 player in the world, Halep has supporters all over the globe, as evidenced by the crowd's reaction after Wednesday's win, per Roland Garros:
Following her match, Halep spoke about the fans in Paris helping her surge into the semis, via Roland Garros:
While Halep has experienced a career-changing move up the rankings over the last year, Petkovic has been waiting her turn to reach a final in Grand Slam play. Since 2011, Petkovic hasn't reached a quarterfinal, much less a semifinal.
Petkovic referenced the fact that she's finally reached this point after the match:
Who will win the women's bracket?
Halep may be younger, but she has been stellar in Grand Slams this season. After reaching the quarterfinals in the Australian Open, the world No. 4 is surging again after getting past Kuznetsova en route to the semis.
The No. 4 player holds the advantage over Petkovic in their three matches, 2-1. The two met twice in 2013 with Halep defeating Petkovic in the final on a clay surface. If Halep can simply contain Petkovic through three sets, her power should shine through in the semifinal.
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