The lower half of the women’s draw did a sharp reversal and returned to form just in time for two of the game’s biggest hitters, Maria Sharapova (2) and Petra Kvitova (4). Sharapova rebounded from a dismal 4th round performance and Petra hung on long enough to make the semis. The two will square off in the semifinals of the French Open. The winner will meet the winner of the other semifinal pairing between Samantha Stosur and Sara Errani, the Cinderella of this year’s event.
In a match that was over before it started, Sharapova had more than enough answers for an over-matched and moody Kaia Kanepi. Maria brought her complete repertoire to Court Philippe Chatrier. Kaia seemed uncomfortable from the start and by the end looked as though she could not wait to escape. This quarterfinal match was pivotal for both players. It marked a strong and surprising run the resurgent 26-year old Estonian who has overcome a myriad of obstacles in resurrecting her career.
For Sharapova, this was a key win. She can regain the number one ranking with a win over Kvitova in the semis. Of all four players on Wednesday, Sharapova was the most composed and most focused. She was the stronger player but it was not vintage Maria. She recorded no aces, committed 19 unforced errors that was offset by 21 winners. Sharapova who had 10 double faults in a rickety 4th round win had 4 today.
Kanepi is normally a hard hitter. She was especially impressive against former number one Caroline Wozniacki where she was able to muster her A game when it mattered most. Today, the big game was missing as much as her confidence. Sharapova needed just 74 minutes of deliberate but screeching play to record a convincing 6-2, 6-3 triumph.
The scene was quite different on Court Suzanne Lenglen where the most unlikely of quarterfinalists, Yaroslava Shvedova a qualifier, hoped to become the first qualifier to reach the semis in the history of the French Open. As she has done since arriving Paris, the Kazakhstanian showed up for this one, just as she did when downing Li Na, the defending champion and strong clay court performer.
Yaroslova has been a bit of a rage in Paris and on the Internet. Her quirky, colored spectacles were a hit with fashion crazed Paris. In the battle between two six footers, Slava established intimidating foot speed from the start. She raced through the first set and had Kvitova pressing to hit winners. At one point Petra drove four consecutive forehands into the net. To the delight of a charged crowd, Yaroslava controlled the tempo. Like Petra, Yaroslava has a big game.
To her credit, Kvitova managed to change the pace and reduce her unforced errors. Her big forehands began to score and her returns improved as her confidence grew. It soon became clear this one was going three. Slava found her game and charged to a 4-2 lead.
This is a time when champions show their mettle. Much like Djokovic and Federer yesterday, the 2011 Wimbledon Champion played her game. Her serve picked up accuracy and pace. When Petra might have gone away, her exposure to the limelight began to show. A surprised crowd watched her pick herself up and claim the match by running off four straight games to close 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. A dejected Yaroslava received a standing ovation for her new fans and will certainly be back in the limelight very soon.
Sharapova will be favored in the semis. She downed Kvitova in three sets in the semis at Melbourne but lost in straight sets at Wimbledon in the finals last year. They have met five times previously. Maria has won three times. Both players prefer the baseline. This one will probably come down to nerves and who serves better.
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