Dream Semifinal and Final Matchups at the 2015 French Open
A turbulent and unpredictable French Open is nearing its conclusion. And now the real drama begins.
While the men’s draw has gone mostly according to plan, it hasn’t been without its share of surprises. Now, the remaining players will face off in star-studded quarterfinals.
But the women’s side is where things have been truly wild. An array of upsets have rocked the field, positioning Serena Williams as the heavy favorite. Yet even she’s faced her share of struggles, leaving a championship parade far from a certainty. Some of her less-heralded peers could be poised to take advantage of their big opportunity.
As the finish line draws closer, here are the ideal semifinal and final matches that would offer the highest theater and leave Paris buzzing.
Women's Semifinal: Serena Williams vs. Timea Bacsinszky
Head-to-head: Williams leads 2-0
Last meeting: 2015 Indian Wells quarterfinal (Williams)
Timea Bacsinszky has flown under the radar the past few months. Not any longer.
The 25-year-old Swiss joins her compatriots Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros. This is her first time ever at this stage of a Grand Slam. She's yielded only one set so far, impressively conquering the power of Madison Keys and Petra Kvitova in her previous two matches.
Bacinszky is a player on the rise, one with a game built on precision and diversity. Up to No. 24 in the world, she's in the midst of a breakout season, putting together a 31-6 record with titles in Acapulco and Monterrey.
That body of work can't be underestimated, and she's brimming with confidence. What would give her hope in a potential matchup against Serena Williams would be her victories over the similarly big games of Keys and Kvitova.
Williams has overcome rough patches in her last three matches, going the distance against Anna-Lena Friedsam, Victoria Azarenka and Sloane Stephens. All that time on court could be taking its toll.
Possibly still affected by her recent elbow injury, Williams hasn't really stormed out of the gate like many expected. Maybe those close calls will be enough to wake her up. Against the even-keeled Bacsinszky, she may be tested once more.
Women's Semifinal: Ana Ivanovic vs. Garbine Muguruza
Head-to-head: No previous meetings
Ana Ivanovic and Garbine Muguruza have never played before, but that could soon change.
Muguruza has solidified her status as one of the WTA's rising stars the past fortnight, taking out accomplished players like Angelique Kerber and Flavia Pennetta. She'll have to face a red-hot Lucie Safarova in the next round, yet Maria Sharapova's early exit gives the Spaniard as good a chance as anyone to survive that half of the draw.
Her likely opponent if she reaches her first major semifinal? Ivanovic.
The 2008 Roland Garros champion, Ivanovic has found her footing again, advancing to her first quarterfinal in Paris since that triumphant march seven years ago. Pushed to three sets against Yaroslava Shvedova, Misaki Doi and Ekaterina Makarova, the Serbian is already playing with house money.
A duel between these two would present some interesting stylistic possibilities. Ivanovic, while owning less firepower, is a defensive specialist and so consistent from the baseline. Those skills would be tested against a big-hitting player like Muguruza.
Ivanovic would have to rely on her experience and guile to stop a surging Muguruza and reach an unlikely Grand Slam final. Either way, their resumes on clay make this matchup intriguing.
Men's Semifinal: Roger Federer vs. Kei Nishikori
Head-to-head: Federer leads 3-2
Last meeting: 2014 World Tour Finals group stage (Federer)
Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori are wizards on the court, raining magic from their Wilson staffs.
Both players offer some of the most diverse skill sets in the world and can pull any shot out of the bag. Their games, adaptable to any surface in the world, are defined by grace and finesse.
Though Federer has a clear height advantage, Nishikori is the more nimble of the two. And his advantage in foot speed neutralizes the Swiss' power. The potential rallies alone between them should be enough to entice any fan.
Federer may have won their last two encounters in straight sets, but Nishikori proved victorious in their only meeting on clay (Rome 2013). This surface is an equalizer and makes the speedy Japanese star especially tough.
A seven-time semifinalist at Roland Garros, Federer would have the edge in terms of experience here. Yet Nishikori is the type of player you can never count out. His burning desire to win a maiden Grand Slam for his home nation will help him maintain a laser-like focus despite the enormity of the situation.
With Federer facing perhaps his last realistic chance to win another French Open, there would be plenty on the line if they face one another.
Men's Semifinal: Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray
Head-to-head: Djokovic leads 18-8
Last meeting: 2015 Miami Open final (Djokovic)
Novak Djokovic faces arguably the stiffest test in all of sports: defeating Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.
Should he finally solve the Nadal riddle in Paris, he'll be in the driver's seat to win the title and complete his career Grand Slam. Then, he'd likely face his old foe Andy Murray in the semifinals. That match would be anything but straightforward.
Not to write off Nadal, who's 70-1 here (and may wind up winning his 10th crown anyway), but the time is right for a change. Djokovic is in a better position than anybody to bring it.
Say he does knock off Nadal in what would be the de facto final. How would he respond emotionally? The risk would be coming out flat after already overcoming such a mental hurdle.
Murray and his pristine 14-0 record on clay this season could spoil the party. Even though Djokovic has won their last seven meetings and 10 of the last 11, not all streaks last forever.
After wilting against Djokovic this year in the finals of the Australian Open and Miami Open (and being shellacked at Indian Wells), Murray will be desperate to turn the tide. And his newfound comfort on the terre battue makes him a wild card.
Djokovic would obviously have the advantage, but Murray's recent momentum swing could make this one an epic contest.
Women's Final: Serena Williams vs. Garbine Muguruza
Head-to-head: Williams leads 2-1
Last meeting: 2015 Australian Open fourth round (Williams)
A year ago at this very tournament, an unknown Spaniard shocked the world and took out defending champion Serena Williams in the second round. Her name? Garbine Muguruza.
What could be more fitting than a rematch between the two, especially with the championship on the line?
An aggressive Muguruza went for broke against Williams at the French Open last year, landing body blow after body blow with pummeling groundstrokes. A noticeably flat Williams was dealt her second-earliest exit ever from Roland Garros.
She returned the favor at this year's Australian Open, fighting from a set down to beat Muguruza in a three-set masterpiece. But that match was on a hard court. On clay, Muguruza is the more naturally comfortable player.
Another duel in Paris between these two would serve as a welcome conclusion to an already memorable tournament. For Williams, she would have a chance to earn payback, like Rafael Nadal did to Robin Soderling in the 2010 French Open final. Or Muguruza could show last year's win was anything but a fluke.
Should they square off, expect plenty of fireworks.
Men's Final: Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer
Head-to-head: Federer leads 20-19
Last meeting: 2015 Italian Open final (Djokovic)
There may not be a better rivalry currently than Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer.
Sure, Rafael Nadal has an extensive history with both players. But when they face one another, the seesaw nature of their battles is truly a sight to behold. Dominated by Federer early on and then ruled by Djokovic in the middle, this matchup has evened out the last few years.
Federer, the sport's greatest artist, is taken out of his comfort zone by the improvisation and defensive genius of Djokovic. The Serbian's rock-steady backhand is a dangerous weapon from anywhere on the court, which Federer tries to neutralize by charging the net and keeping points short.
While both master technicians, their games are radically different. And that divergence of philosophies often produces exquisite tennis. Who wouldn't want to see a reproduction of their historic 2014 Wimbledon final?
Another Federer-Nadal championship pairing would be a popular choice, but we've seen that story four times before (all decisive Nadal wins). Watching the current No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world duke it out would be the dream scenario.
Their recent Rome final, won by Djokovic in straight sets, is still a fresh memory. Federer, though, seems to have found another gear since that defeat.
A meeting here would be their third overall at Roland Garros. Djokovic may have won their 2012 semifinal bout in straight sets, but Federer notched one of the most memorable victories of his career by vanquishing Djokovic in the 2011 semifinals.
History would be at stake if they ran into each other for a 40th time. For Djokovic, the biggest hole on his resume could be erased. As for Federer, he'd have a shot to add possibly a final Grand Slam trophy to his collection and further cement his hold on the record books.
Joe Kennard is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.