Roland Garros Day 12 Preview: The Women’s Semifinals - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Day 12 Preview: The Women’s Semifinals

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Poland's Iga Swiatek has made a name for herself at this year's French Open (rolandgarros.com)

One semifinal features two Major champions, while the other is one of the unlikeliest matchups ever at this stage of a Slam.

A year ago at this tournament, Sofia Kenin made her breakthrough, upsetting Serena Williams to reach the round of 16 at a Major for the first time.  Now she’s just two matches away from her second Slam title of the year.  Petra Kvitova is into her first Roland Garros semifinal in eight years, at the same event where she made an emotional return in 2017 after a career-threatening hand injury at the hands of a home intruder.  The two-time Wimbledon champion is looking to reach her fourth championship match at a Major.

19-year-old Iga Swiatek has already built an impressive resume since making her Slam debut just last year, reaching the second week in three of her first seven Majors.  She has dominated the competition to reach the semifinals in both singles and doubles, without dropping a set in either discipline.  23-year-old Nadia Podoroska had never won a match at a Slam prior to this fortnight, and is the first qualifier to ever reach the Roland Garros semifinals.  But the Argentine knows how to win, with an astonishing 42 victories at all levels in this abbreviated season.

Sofia Kenin (4) vs. Petra Kvitova (7)

Kivtova leads their head-to-head 2-0.  Petra prevailed in three sets on a hard court two years ago in Miami, and in straight sets on clay last year in Madrid.  But since that last meeting nearly 18 months ago, Kenin has raised her game considerably, becoming one of the strongest and most consistent competitors on tour.  Kvitova has reached this stage much more comfortably, without dropping a set.  Kenin’s path has been much more challenging, as four of her five matches have gone the distance.  And the American just played her quarterfinal yesterday, while Kvitova had a day off before today’s semifinal.  Despite struggling a bit throughout this tournament, the reigning Australian Open champion has played her best tennis when she needed it.  That was especially evident yesterday against Danielle Collins, when Kenin dominated the third set 6-0, hitting 14 winners and only five unforced errors in that set.  Her level has steadily improved match-to-match.  Since the third round, she’s averaged 14 winners per set, with 10 unforced errors.

In taking a closer look at Kvitova’s numbers, she’s played well, but not great.  Through five matches, she’s won 67% of first serve points, which is modest for one of the WTA’s best servers.  And Petra’s been broken 11 times.  But putting the stats aside, Kvitova lefty serve and forehand are hard to attack, and she should be considered the slight favorite.  Kenin can ill afford to fall behind as she has multiple times this fortnight.  As per Tennis Abstract, Kvitova wins 91% of matches in her career when she wins the first set.  The deciding factor may be who better handles the pressure of this moment, knowing whoever wins will be the favorite in Saturday’s final. 

Iga Swiatek vs. Nadia Podoroska (Q)

This will be the first career meeting for these first-time Slam semifinalists.  Swiatek has been untouchable this fortnight.  She’s averaged just two games lost per set.  Iga even upset top-seeded Simona Halep, allowing the 2018 champion just three games.  There really has been no penetrable weakness in her game.  Her net play has been stellar, winning 80% of points when coming forward.  And her groundstrokes have controlled the rallies, averaging seven more winners than errors per match despite hitting with significant power. 

Podoroska’s run has been nearly as impressive, winning eight straight matches since the first round of qualifying 16 days ago.  And she’s dropped only two of 18 sets contested.  However, she does not possess the same firepower or craftiness as her teenage opponent.  And while you certainly can’t refer to Swiatek as a veteran, she has far more experience at a Major than the Argentine.  As per the WTA, a qualifier has never reached a Grand Slam final, so Nadia is trying to break entirely new ground.  A year ago at this event, Marketa Vondrousova was a shocking 19-year-old finalist.  In the opening round this year, Swiatek defeated Vondrousova.  Perhaps there’s some symmetry there, as 19-year-old Iga is the favorite to advance to this year’s championship match.

Other Notable Matches on Day 12:

In the men’s doubles semifinals, 2019 Wimbledon and US Open champions Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (1) vs. Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares (7), the 2020 US Open champions.

In the second semifinal, defending Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz and and Andreas Mies (8) vs. Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic (9), finalists at last month’s US Open.

Thursday’s full schedule is here.

Grand Slam

Australian Open Considering Switching Women’s Final To Sunday In Future

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The Australian Open could become the first Grand Slam to break away from the tradition of women playing their singles final first. 

According to a report from the Australian Associated Press, tournament chief Craig Tiley is open to making such a move which wouldn’t require any approval from either the WTA or ATP. However, they would likely need to consult with players first and no changes are set to be made in 2025. 

The reasoning for making such a change is due to the women’s final usually being shorter than the men’s best with it being a best-of-three set match. Compared to the men who play the best-of-five. Their thinking is that due to the length of men’s matches increasing in recent years, staging it on a Saturday would enable more people to watch the entire match compred to a Sunday when many are consious about staying up late due to the working week starting on Monday. 

This year’s Australian Open saw Jannik Sinner bounce back from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in a epic encounter that lasted three hours and 46 minuites. Meanwhile, Aryna Sabalenka required an hour and 17 mnuites to beat China’s Qinwen Zheng and capture the title. 

Should such a switch take place, it is estimated that the Sunday finale would end at around 10:30pm local time instead of after midnight, which would make it more appealing to fans. Furthermore, it could throw the women’s final more into the spotlight. 

However, there will be obstacles that need to be addressed. The most significant for the Australian Open will be trying to ensure that their 48-hour recovery period between best-of-five-set men’s matches will still be followed. 

This year was the first time in history that the Melbourne major took place over 15 days with play starting on a Sunday. Organisers claimed that the move was done in order to prevent the number of late-night finishes. However, it has little effect on any matches that took place after the first round. 

It is throught that now the event is held over 15 days, it gives more room for organisers to schedule the men’s final for a Saturday. The proposal was discussed during this year’s Australian Open’s official debrief. 

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Grand Slam

It Wasn’t The Same Old Story On Sunday Down Under

Jannik Sinner won his first Grand Slam title on Sunday.

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(@janniksin - Twitter)

It’s been the same old story at the Australian Open for a long time in the men’s game.

One of the greats almost always would take the top prize Down Under. Either Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer or even Stan Wawrinka always prevailed since 2006 at Melbourne.

And then came Jannik Sinner in 2024.

None of the other superstars were still around for Sunday’s final.

A DIFFERENT AUSTRALIAN OPEN

Yes, this time it was a different Australian Open.

But actually Sinner may have written his own story when he upended Djokovic in the semifinals. Without that experience, the slender Italian may not have been able to handle the pressure that Daniil Medvedev sent his way in the final.

Sinner was ready for the finish line after shocking Djokovic in the semifinals. It just took time to get there.

Sinner played within himself most of the last three sets of the final. A first-time Grand Slam finalist, Sinner played as if he belonged there in those three sets.

But, oh, those first two sets when Medvedev dominated play with his backhand from the middle of the court. Backhands usually are reserved for the backhand side of the court, but not with the tall Russian on the court.

SINNER DIDN’T PLAY HIS GAME AT FIRST

In a similar manner as women’s champion Aryna Sabalenka, Sinner followed up a big semifinal win with his own Australian Open title. Only, Sinner had to fight for five sets to accomplish his dream Down Under with a 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Medvedev.

Sinner appeared to play far differently from his victory over Djokovic when he controlled the court with his aggressive play and power.

This time, Sinner started things conservatively with few aggressive winners, repeatedly leaving the corners wide open for Medvedev’s crafty, but hard hit strokes. Medvedev made Sinner  pay a price with a style of play that was just the opposite.

Medvedev played close to the baseline and aggressively hopped on balls with his backhand in whip-lash fashion. He hardly had to move as he conserved energy.

THE STRATEGY ALMOST WORKED TO PERFECTION

Medvedev’s strategy worked like a charm until Sinner served the ninth game of the third set as Medvedev once needed only six points for a possible Grand Slam title. Sinner managed to overcome a deuce score to win that game.

Medvedev fell behind 30-0 serving the 10th game of the set and then Sinner got his first set point. Sinner made it stand up and it was a new game after that.

Sinner didn’t appear to be ready for Medvedev’s game the first two sets, but the Italian then came alive. He became prepared for Medvedev, even after losing the first two sets.

Of course, Sabalenka got her boost from a surprising, but solid win over talented Coco Graff in the women’s semifinals. Sabalenka then was never really challenged by Qinwen Zheng in the final.

Sinner’s final was much different.  He was somewhat lucky to escape with  a win.

Medvedev almost wrapped up the title in the ninth game, but it didn’t happen. As a result, Sinner may have started his own success story in Grand Slam finals.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Daniil Medvedev Plays Jannik Sinner for the Men’s Singles Championship

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Daniil Medvedev during Friday’s semifinals (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

The men’s singles and women’s doubles championship matches are on Sunday in Melbourne.

Across the last 10 hard court Majors, Daniil Medvedev has now advanced to six championship matches, half of which have come in Melbourne.  In those finals, Medvedev is a meek 1-4.  However, this is the first time Medvedev is looking across the net at a man not named Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic, the two winningest male singles players of all-time at Grand Slam events.

And Medvedev can thank Jannik Sinner for that, who for the third time in their last four meetings, defeated Djokovic in Friday’s semifinals to reach his first Major final.  Since adding Darren Cahill to his team 18 months ago, one of tennis’s best coaches of all-time, Sinner’s game has continually and significantly improved, most evident in his three victories over Djokovic since November.  On Sunday, the most dominant male player of this fortnight looks to break more new ground in his young career.

Earlier on Sunday, in the women’s doubles championship match, it’s Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko (11) vs. Su-Wei Hsieh and Elise Mertens (2).  This is a first Major final for Kichenok, and a first in doubles for Ostapenko.  Su-Wei has won seven Majors in doubles, including her first mixed title earlier this week, and is 7-1 at this stage of Majors.  Mertens has won three Majors in women’s doubles, including Wimbledon in 2021 alongside Su-Wei.


Jannik Sinner (4) vs. Daniil Medvedev (3) – Not Before 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Through six rounds, Sinner has dropped just one of 19 sets, which came against Djokovic in the semis.  But even that match was a rather comfortable win for the Italian, who lost only six games in the three sets he claimed.  Jannik has not just been the best ATP player this fortnight: he’s been the best ATP player since the last Major, with a record of 26-2.  The 22-year-old is 10-4 in ATP finals, with this of course being by far the biggest of his career to date.

Medvedev endured a much more complicated path to this final, completing 25 out of a possible 30 sets, which included three five-setters.  Two of those came in the last two rounds, against Hubert Hurkacz and Sascha Zverev.  Daniil has spent six more hours on court than Jannik, and has played for over 11 hours during the second week alone.  He is 20-16 in ATP Finals, with all 20 titles coming at different events.  But Medvedev can be rather streaky in finals: after losing five in a row, he won seven of eight, yet has now lost his last three.

And those last two losses came at the hands of Sinner, who beat him in both Beijing and Vienna.  Jannik also defeated Daniil in the semifinals of the ATP Finals in November, though all three of those recent matches were tight.  Prior to that, Medvedev had dominated their head-to-head 6-0, which includes two finals earlier in 2023.  All ten of their meetings have taken place on hard courts, and this is their first at a Major.

Based on their recent history, as well as their individual form this fortnight, I favor Sinner to win his first Major on Sunday.  While he’ll surely be nervous in the biggest match of his life, and could experience an emotional letdown coming off ending Novak’s undefeated record of 20-0 in Australian Open semis and finals, Jannik will be the much fresher player on this day.  Plus, he will feel confident after those three recent wins over Daniil, who has a lot of scar tissue to overcome in Major finals.  And after facing Medvedev so much within the past year, Sinner is well-versed on how to take advantage of Daniil’s deep return position.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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