It is semi-finals day in the 2013 French Open in the Ladies Singles, with both matches taking place on Thursday afternoon.
First up is Vika Azarenka taking on Maria Sharapova at 2pm UK time and this will be only their third meeting on clay. Only one previous red dirt meeting has been completed between the pair, which was Sharapova’s win in the Stuttgart final last year.
Maria came out poorly and was blitzed 6-0 by Jelena Jankovic in the opening set of their semi-final on Wednesday, but she recovered well to win that one, while Azarenka came through a tough first set to take down Maria Kirilenko yesterday.
Azarenka leads the overall head-to-head 7-5, but they are yet to face each other this season. Neither of these two players are at their best on clay, but Azarenka struggles on the dirt slightly more in my view.
Maria was always pretty poor on it until her amazing clay swing 12 months ago. She just has that bit more experience and is a touch more comfortable on it, but this match is not far off a 50/50 call.
I personally won’t be having a bet in this one, as there isn’t any real value on either player, but I slightly favour Sharapova by maybe five percent at the most.
World number one Serena Williams is looking to reach her first French Open final since way back in 2002 when she won the tournament for the only time. She faces last year’s finalist Sara Errani at around 4pm UK time.
As one would expect, this is a wonderful match-up for Williams, who has pulverised the diminutive Italian to the tune of 5-0 in the head-to-heads and 10 sets to one in total.
They last met in the semi-finals of Madrid in faster conditions than today, but as we saw in the Novak Djokovic/Tommy Haas match yesterday on Suzanne Lenglen, the courts aren’t exactly slow when the sun comes out and drier conditions prevail.
Errani would want it to be painfully slow to have any chance of a win today. She’d also require another one of those strange emotional mini-breakdowns that Serena had against Sveta Kuznetsova in the quarter-final, to be in with a shout.
The Italian No. 1 has got to this stage by winning her first ever match against a top-five ranked opponent in Aga Radwanska in the last eight, but Aga’s powder puff hitting gave Errani a chance that she surely won’t get today.
That win broke Errani’s losing streak against players ranked above her, which stood at 15 straight losses stretching back to a win over Azarenka back in 2008. It is obvious that she struggles badly against the game’s top stars for whom she’s cannon fodder.
There are a variety of wagers to choose from in this, all centred around how easily Williams will win and the one I like is for Serena to get this done in less than 81.5 minutes at 1.87.
The American blitzed Errani’s friend/doubles partner/coach Roberta Vinci in 70 minutes and I can’t see today’s match being any tougher for Williams now that she’s overcome the tricky hurdle of Kuznetsova.
Williams knew that Sveta could cause her problems, which probably led to the anxiety she showed in sets two and three, but she knows Errani can’t hurt her, so a more relaxed Serena should win this quickly and comfortably.
Best Bet: Back under 81.5 total minutes in Williams vs Errani at 1.87
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