The 2012 women's French Open semifinals take place on Thursday, with Maria Sharapova attempting to move to No. 1 in the world, Sam Stosur attempting to reach her second slam final in three tries, Petra Kvitova trying to find consistency, and Sara Errani hoping to keep a dream fortnight alive.
After quite a few upsets in the women's draw at the 2012 French Open, the biggest upset of all is that there weren't more of them. For the first time since 2008, two of the top four women's seeds have made the semifinals. Last year, none did. In both 2009 and 2010, only one did. Granted, we are assured that only one will make the finals but, for the women at Roland Garros, this is how a chalk bracket looks.
The shorelines are rather divergent in this year's semifinals. In one matchup, you've got a woman continuing her mid-career surge and looking for her second final in three slams against a 25-year old Italian playing in her first slam semifinal. In the other, you've got a duo of Top Five players facing off for the third time in four slams. And in all, you've got four women playing the best clay court tennis of their respective careers.
No. 6 Sam Stosur vs. No. 21 Sara Errani
All-Time Series: Stosur leads 5-0 (sets: 10-1)
On Clay: Stosur leads 1-0 (sets: 2-0)
Despite the much lower seed, the 5-foot-4 Errani has actually had a better year than Stosur to date -- she has gone 29-10 to Stosur's 22-11, and she has won three titles to Stosur's zero. It has truly been the best year ever for the surging Italian. Errani knocked off former French Open champions in both the third (Ana Ivanovic) and fourth (Svetlana Kuznetsova) rounds, then knocked off one of the hottest players on the tour (Angelique Kerber) in the quarterfinals. A switch to a bigger racquet has given Errani better power and court coverage, and she is looking better than ever.
Still, in theory, there is nothing Errani has in her game that Stosur doesn't. Stosur entered Paris in a slump -- she had advanced past the quarterfinals of just one of her last seven tournaments -- but she has been a monster this fortnight. She dropped no more than six games in any of the first three rounds, held off a strong battle from Sloane Stephens in the fourth, then laid waste to Dominika Cibulkova in the quarterfinals. She has completely dominated Errani head-to-head, winning 10 of 11 sets and dropping only 14 games in their last three contests. There is nothing one can find that points to an Errani win. Then again, it's not like she had great odds of reaching the semifinals, either. All bets are off when a player makes a run like this, but I'll still say Stosur wins in straight sets.
No. 2 Maria Sharapova vs. No. 4 Petra Kvitova
All-Time Series: Sharapova 3-2 (sets: Sharapova 8-5)
On Clay: Sharapova 1-0 (sets: Sharapova 2-0)
Maria Sharapova is this close to taking the No. 1 ranking from Victoria Azarenka, just as she was when she lost to Azarenka in the Australian Open finals. But can she take out the young Czech to get the job done? The answer depends quite a bit on Kvitova. The world's No. 4 player (and defending Wimbledon champion) dominates most points, for better or worse, with her power. As we saw in her quarterfinal win over Yaroslava Shvedova, she is almost untouchable when she finds her rhythm, but she falls out of that rhythm quite often. Against Shvedova, she lost the first set, won eight of the next 10 games, lost four in a row in the third set, then rallied to win. She blew Sharapova off of the court at Wimbledon last year but because of inconsistency has dropped the last two contests and four of the last five sets in the series.
Sharapova has plenty of power but, if this becomes a battle of haymakers, the match favors Kvitova. Despite her famous "cow on ice" comment (in reference to how she felt on clay), Sharapova's got a strong advantage when it comes to movement this time around, and she seems to recover much more quickly from mistakes. She gets the nod (we'll say she wins in three sets) for that reason but, if Good Kvitova comes out to play, she is the favorite to win the whole thing.