French Open Semifinal Previews

On Thursday:

Serena Williams (1) vs Timea Bacsinszky (23)

Serena advanced to the semis by predictably routing Italy’s Sara Errani, while Bacsinszky continued her best major run ever by getting past unseeded Alison Van Uytvanck. There’s a chance this is a tougher match for Williams than whoever she would meet in the final. Bacsinszky has been consistent in weathering power players (Madison Keys, Petra Kvitova) and Williams had very erratic and inconsistent in her path to the quarterfinals. Their only meeting since Bacsinszky returned to the tour came a couple months in Indian Wells, won by Serena, 7-5, 6-3. The players that typically take Williams out at majors are high variance players who can match her power. Bacsinszky doesn’t fit that profile like a Sabine Lisicki, for example, but because this is slow clay, Bacsinsky stands a chance if Williams has another off day.

The call: Williams in three sets.

Ana Ivanovic (7) vs Lucie Safarova (13)


Two favorites of tennis junkies meet in this semifinal, as Ivanovic seeks her first Grand Slam final in seven years, while Safarova is looking for her first at age 28, thanks to a somewhat late career surge. This one could go either way, although Safarova holds an edge in the head-to-head, including a 6-3, 6-3 in last year’s French Open.

The call: As long as her groundstrokes continue to be as punishing as they have all tournament (she’s yet to lose a set), and she comes up with huge shots in pressure moments as displayed despite vicious winds in her impressive win over Garbine Muguruza, Safarova is the pick in three sets.

On Friday:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs Andy Murray (3)

There are a lot of similarities between Djokovic and LeBron James, chief among them that both faced a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. For LeBron, it was overcoming the Boston Celtics in the playoffs. For Djokovic, it was his inability to dethrone Rafa Nadal at Roland Garros. With that weight lifted after a straights win over the 9-time champion in the quarterfinals, the world #1 is the prohibitive favorite to win the title and complete his career Grand Slam.

Murray scored an impressive win over David Ferrer, his first over the Spaniard on clay. Like Djokovic, he is undefeated this year on clay, but he has had a mental block against Novak lately. Once a seesaw rivalry between mirror image players, Murray has wilted in finals at the Australian Open and Miami as he became distracted by Djokovic’s gamesmanship. From a tactical perspective, Djokovic is more athletic, has a better second serve and his forehand is much better at hitting through the court. The X-factor here is a jump in temperature that favors Murray, but his real shot at defeating the #1 seed is much likelier to come should they meet on the grass at Wimbledon, not here in Paris. If he pulls it off, not only would it be hilarious for the victor of the Djokovic-Nadal clash to lose in the next round, it would be a monumental upset.

The call: Djokovic in four sets.

Stan Wawrinka (8) vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (14)


An unlikely semifinal pits two erratic but powerful players against one another after both scored sizable upsets. Wawrinka’s win over his friend Roger Federer was from an upset when looking at the matchup, but their rivalry has had a big brother-little brother dynamic dominated by Federer. Stan the Man turned that around with his massive groundstrokes putting the former champion on his heels all match for a straight set win in which he did not drop serve. Tsonga, meanwhile, built a two set lead over the favored Kei Nishikori, who regrouped after fallen paneling on Court Philippe Chatrier caused a delay. Ultimately, it was the Frenchman who survived a deciding fifth set to keep the home country alive in the tournament.

The call: Both are so inconsistent that a routine win in either direction is in play, but Wawrinka has proven to be a big match player and should make his second Grand Slam final.

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