It was back to the payout queue on quarter-finals day at the 2013 Foro Italico when Simona Halep won a tense battle with Jelena Jankovic.
In a match that featured 15 breaks of serve it could hardly be classed as a win that did the stress levels any good, but after dropping a first set that she led, Halep stormed back to take the second to love before coming back from 0-3 and match points down to reach the semi-finals.
Friday had begun in double quick time in Rome when Serena Williams and Sara Errani both progressed to the semi-finals well before lunchtime.
Errani was the beneficiary of a withdrawal from Maria Sharapova, who was apparently too ill to even turn up at the Foro Italico prompting numerous assumptions as to what she was up to the evening before on boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov’s birthday.
It was almost as easy for Williams, who dropped only two games to Carla Suarez Navarro to make a grand total of three games lost in her last two matches.
So, the semi-finals are Williams versus Halep and Errani taking on Vika Azarenka, with Williams/Halep first up at 11am UK time.
Williams and Halep have met on one previous occasion, which was on grass at Wimbledon in 2011 when the American won from a set down. It is very hard to see Halep causing such problems for the world number one today.
The diminutive Romanian looked totally spent towards the end of the Jankovic match and she just about fell over the line, which leads me to believe that after six matches here in Rome Halep looks ready to go.
It’s been a fantastic week for Simona, but it’s asking too much for her to go out and add Williams to her illustrious list of vanquished opponents this week and my bets in this one centre around the unders on total games and Williams on the game handicaps.
Halep – other than this week – isn’t great when losing the first set and prior to this tournament she’d lost nine straight matches when failing to win the opener. In those nine matches she only once won more than three games in the deciding set, which was generally the second.
Four of those nine ended 6-0 or 6-1 to the opponent and I can see her going away quickly again today with little left in the tank, so my bet in this is to take the under 8.5 games in set two at 1.68.
The second semi-final should be closer, but Vika’s good return of serve could make it difficult for Errani to hold and the Italian has a poor record of 1-5 against today’s opponent.
We haven’t seen the best of Errani in this tournament so far and she does have the advantage of having had a day off yesterday, but I think Azarenka will win this one minus 4.5 games on the handicap at around 1.80.
Best Bet: Back under 8.5 games in set two of Williams/Halep at 1.68
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