French Open semifinal preview: Simona Halep vs Karolina Pliskova

A blockbuster semifinal at the French Open sees two former Grand Slam finalists and two of the top seeds face off for a place in the final, with the number one ranking potentially on the line.

French Open semifinal preview: Simona Halep vs Karolina Pliskova
Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova will be aiming to make their second Grand Slam final when they face off for the sixth time on Thursday (Getty/Julian Finney)

Despite all the talk before the tournament that the women’s singles draw was more open than ever, the second semifinal at the French Open has worked out perfectly as planned with third seed Simona Halep, arguably the pre-tournament favorite for the title, taking on second seed Karolina Pliskova, whose run to the final has been more surprising.

Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova after the Romanian won the Dubai final between the two back in 2015 (Getty/Francois Nel)
Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova after the Romanian won the Dubai final between the two back in 2015 (Getty/Francois Nel)

Halep has won four of the five meetings between the two, all of which have been on hard courts, though this is a meeting of a much larger magnitude than any of their previous encounters. Not only are both aiming to reach their second Grand Slam final (Halep made the final in Paris in 2014, whilst Pliskova was in the US Open final last year), the two are both after the world number one spot. Pliskova will rise to the top of the rankings with a win in this match, whilst Halep will become the world number one if she takes the title.

This will be the second semifinal of the day, taking place at around 17:00 Paris time, and the winner will face unseeded Jelena Ostapenko or 30th seed Timea Bacsinszky in the final.

So far in Paris

Things started off pretty comfortably for Halep in the opening rounds, with straight sets wins over both Jana Cepelova and Tatjana Maria seeing her safely make the third round. Things got a little more tricky in the third round, but she survived a tough second set to beat 26th seed Daria Kasatkina before cruising past 21st seed Carla Suarez Navarro to make the quarterfinal at Roland Garros for the second time. She then scraped through her last eight encounter, coming from a set and 5-1 down and saving a match point before bageling fifth seed Elina Svitolina in the decider.

Simona Halep celebrates her comeback victory over Elina Svitolina in the last eight (Getty/Adam Pretty)
Simona Halep celebrates her comeback victory over Elina Svitolina in the last eight (Getty/Adam Pretty)

Things weren’t so easy for Pliskova to begin with, seeing off Zheng Saisai in two sets in the first round before prevailing 6-3 in the decider against Ekaterina Alexandrova. Following that she put in a fairly impressive performance to beat Carina Witthoeft and make the second week for the first time, before battling from a set down to beat Veronica Cepede Royg to make her third consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal. Her last eight clash was not particularly easy, but she saw off 28th seed Caroline Garcia in straight sets to reach her second Grand Slam semifinal; despite being the world number two, her run to the last four has been surprising considering her previous lack of success on clay.

Analysis

There is no doubt that Pliskova has been one of the best players on tour this season, with her run here putting her top of the live Race To Singapore. However, she is not too comfortable on clay and her general form this year on the surface has not been too great, contrasting Halep who has seemed very comfortable on the surface despite a slow start to 2017. Halep’s ability on the surface is one advantage she must take advantage of, as otherwise Pliskova could potentially hit through her; the Romanian must try to frustrate the Czech, and vary her play up to force Pliskova to move about and open up the court.

One of Karolina Pliskova's many strengths is her serve, which is arguably one of the best in the sport (Getty/Aurelien Meunier)
One of Karolina Pliskova's many strengths is her serve, which is arguably one of the best in the sport (Getty/Aurelien Meunier)

Though Pliskova may not be as comfortable as Halep on the surface, what has shown so far in Paris is that her big playing style, most notably her brilliant serve, is still successful and she must try to continue this against a player who will be her biggest test so far. What also helps the second seed is that it is arguably Halep who is the most error prone of the two, meaning she could get several free points. In contrast, Halep must not hand the Czech too many free points, though must risk being aggressive,

Assessment

This blockbuster encounter has the potential to be great and both women will have confidence from certain aspects of the season. However, whilst Pliskova’s run has been impressive, she still does not seem quite as comfortable on clay as Halep does and that could be crucial. It should be tight, but it seems that the third seed will be making her second French Open final tomorrow.

Prediction: Simona Halep in three sets

 

 

Tennis