All to play for



Originally published on 08/06/17 00:00

Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) [30] v Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

Bacsinszky and Ostapenko both celebrate their birthdays on Thursday and they are also bidding to reach their first Grand Slam final.

This is the first meeting between the pair and Ostapenko’s dream run to the last four is her best ever showing at a major. The 20-year-old – looking to become the first Latvian woman to reach the final of Roland Garros – had never been beyond the third round of a Grand Slam until this week.

Bacsinszky, who excels on clay, reached the semi-finals of Roland Garros in 2015 and led Serena Williams by a set and a break, but she was unable to seal the deal.

Keys to the match

Ostapenko is a talented ballstriker who carries almost equal power in both her forehand and backhand. She is a capable of thrashing winners from any position in the court and she will look to seize the initiative and play the match on her terms.

The 20-year-old will almost certainly target Bacsinszky’s weaker wing, her forehand. Patience is the key for the Latvian and she will need to bide her time before pulling the trigger in the baseline exchanges.

Bacsinszky, who has a world-class backhand, will likely be forced to soak up significant periods of pressure. Her defensive skills have been impressive in the tournament so far and she will look to use her experience to her advantage.

Prediction: Ostapenko in three


Simona Halep (ROU) [3] v Karolina Pliskova (CZE) [2]

Pliskova and Halep may be battling for an opportunity to win the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen on Saturday, but the pair also fighting to become the next world No.1.

If the Czech defeats Halep, she will dethrone Angelique Kerber as world No.1 for the first time, however, if the Romanian lifts the title this weekend, then she will make her debut at top spot when the rankings are updated on Monday.

Pliskova and Halep have met five times before, but only on hard-courts, and the Romanian leads 4-1.

Halep is bidding to reaching her second Roland Garros final – she lost to Maria Sharapova in 2014 – and move a step closer to a maiden Grand Slam title. Pliskova is in her first ever French Open semi-final and she had never been beyond the second round in Paris until this year.

Keys to the match

Pliskova’s run to the French Open semi-final has been surprising due to the difficulties she encounters on her least favoured surface. The No.2 seed is uneasy with the red dirt beneath her shoes and her movement is compromised as a result.

The Czech’s serve/forehand combination has been lethal throughout the tournament and she will not alter her attack-minded approach against Halep. The 25-year-old will look to dominate the centre of the court and force her opponent to retreat.

Halep’s last-gasp win over Elina Svitolina might just provide her with the confidence boost she needs to finally realise her dream and become a Grand Slam champion. For large parts of her contest with the Ukrainian, the No.3 seed was subdued and another slow start could be costly.

The Romanian, the most natural clay-court player left in the draw, will look to manoeuvre the Czech around the court and expose her less than stellar movement. It’s vital that Halep remains proactive.

Prediction: Halep in two


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