2011 French Open – Nick’s Picks – Women’s Singles Semifinals
Marion Bartoli (FRA) vs. Francesca Schiavone (ITA)
Bartoli played some very inspired tennis in the quarterfinals to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets and she is into the semis of the French Open for the first time in her career. Her only other appearance in the semis of a Grand Slam came back in 2007 when she reached the finals of Wimbledon. She has the crowd behind her and she will not go down without a fight.
What can I say about Francesca! She is truly a warrior and I think some of the Italian men could take a cue from her and how hard she works on the court. She was down 6-1, 4-1 to Pavlyuchenkova, but she fought back and won the match 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 to reach the semis for the second straight year. She is the defending champion and it is going to take one heck of an effort to beat her on the dirt.
Schiavone is 4-1 against Bartoli, but the two have never met on clay. Their last meeting came at Wimbledon in 2009 and Schiavone won that in straight sets. Let’s break down how this match…
Movement - Bartoli will take the ball earlier and therefore won’t have to cover as much space. She stands right on the baseline and moves laterally very well. On the other side, Schiavone has to cover more ground, but she does it so very well. This one is really a toss up as both girls are excellent movers.
Forehand – Different types of forehands from both girls. Bartoli takes the ball on the rise, therefore hitting it flatter and really keeping her opponents off-balance. She hits a ton of half volleys and even though she hits two-handed from both sides, it doesn’t seem to effect her groundstrokes. Schiavone has a bigger swing, she hits with more spin and she can drive the ball from inside the baseline. Again, this is close, but I give a little edge to Schiavone.
Backhand - I would say that during a match, over time, the one-handed backhand of Schiavone can tend to break down a little more than Bartoli’s. That is not to say that it will, the tendency is just there. Both have fabulous backhands, but here I give a little edge to Bartoli.
Serve – Bartoli hits a flatter serve that will end up right in the sweet spot for Schiavone, whereas the Italian hits a serve with more spin and can get it to kick up. Edge to Schiavone here.
Versatality- No doubt that this goes to Schiavone. She plays with such style and flair and she can hit every shot on the court. She can slice it, dink it, angle it, hit with spin, she can do everything! Bartoli hits a more dangerous ball, but Schiavone can play with more variation.
Mentality - Schiavone has won the last two matches because of her mental focus. She was down big in her last match and came back because she believes in herself at all times. She can adjust to the moment and that is her big advantage.
Nick’s Pick – The longer this match goes, the more it favors Schiavone. For Bartoli to win, she has to get it done in two sets and get down to business. If she gives Schiavone the slightest window she will be sorry. I have to give Schiavone a slight edge here because of her experience on clay, but this can go either way.
Maria Sharapova (RUS) vs. Na Li (CHN)
Sharapova blew by Andrea Petkovic in straight sets and she is definitely playing the best clay-court tennis of her life. She is confident, moving well and her serve seems to be just fine. This is her second appearance in the semis of the French Open and she is looking to reach the finals here for the first time in her career. If she wins this tournament she will complete the career Grand Slam and cement herself as one of the best ever.
Li, like Sharapova, is also playing great tennis and she has advanced to the semis of her second consecutive Grand Slam. She reached the finals of the Australian Open, which was her first Grand Slam final, and now she is just one win away from her second. She beat Victoria Azarenka in the quarters in straight sets, which is no easy accomplishment!
Sharapova is 5-2 against Li, but has lost to her the last two times they have played. They’ve met once on clay, in the fourth round of the French Open in 2009, and Sharapova won that in three sets. This is a very interesting match because you have two girls that can really bang the ball from both sides. Li is super-consistent with her groundstrokes and she will stand right on, or near, the baseline and just keep her opponents moving. Sharapova has to be patient and pick her spots. She cannot go for outright winners. She has to keep the pressure on Li and force her to make mistakes, that will be the only way she can beat her. Sharapova, right now, doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses, but the longer this match goes the more it favors Li because of her excellent movement on the clay. I like Sharapova in this match because right now she is playing with so much confidence and when she has played like this in the past, she is very tough to beat.
Nick’s Pick – Sharapova in 3 sets