Saturday, 4 June 2016

Finals set: Serena v Garbine & Novak v Andy

Still being behind schedule, the Roland Garros tournament organisers determined that all singles semi finals - women and men - be played on the final Friday, Day 13.
And after all the rain delays, Federer's absence, Nadal's withdrawal and plenty of upset results, the two finals will be contested: 1:) between the top two seeds from the men's draw; and 2:) between the numbers one and four seeds from the women's draw.

Many had predicted that these would be the four finalists before the event began.

Garbine Muguruza was the first to reach the final following yet another impressive straight sets win, this one over Samantha Stosur.  The Spanish fourth seed has improved with each performance, and although the 6-2 6-4 demolition of the 2010 finalist suggests that Stosur was off her game, it was more a matter of Stosur maintaining her standard but simply being outclassed by a player with greater capacity to inflict damage with her power serve and ground strokes.

For Garbine, this will be her second final in a Major, having been runner-up to Serena Williams at Wimbledon last year.  She will be hoping to turn the tables on the world number one, but on the clay this year, as it will be Serena again her final hurdle at Roland Garros.  
The two have met four times - each at a Grand Slam tournament.  Serena won in 2013 at the Australian Open, and again in Melbourne last year before repeating the dose in the Wimbledon final.
However their only match on clay saw Muguruza win at Roland Garros in round two in 2014, so that must give her confidence leading into this year's final.

Serena certainly has had to battle harder for her wins in order to reach the final.  Following the high quality close match against Mladenovic, the top seed struggled for a large part against Putintseva and was in strife for much of the first set against unseeded Kiki Bertens in a hard fought semi final.

Bertens broke immediately, and almost achieved a double break before Serena settled into the match.  Eventually a tie break was required, and were it not for a nagging hip injury which clearly restricted the Dutch player, Serena may well have been a set down instead of claiming the advantage 7-6.  The tie break was won 9 points to 7.

Kiki continued to challenge Serena but the number one was able to dip into her ample reserves and win her way into yet another GS final.  If she wins the title she will have at least four of each of the majors, and 22 in total, equalling Steffi Graf.

Andy Murray won his semi final against defending champion Stan Wawrinka, and surprisingly did it comfortably.  Stan, before the semi, was hitting what appeared to be peak form, but against Murray was no match, his court movement lacking, and once he had lost the opening two sets, there was no coming back.  Better signs with a 6-4 third set win, but this was Murray's day and he soon extinguished any thoughts of a five set thriller, stamping Stan's departure papers 6-2 in the fourth.

Andy has lost seven of his nine finals at Grand Slam level, four to Djokovic, including this year's Australian Open.  His two majors, though have been wins against Novak.  Because they were back in 2012 and 2013, his hunger for more success at the highest level must be extreme.
It will be another Djokovic v Murray final - their seventh at GS level (equal second most of any pairing in the Open Era)

Novak is in his sixth successive GS final, and third straight Roland Garros final, thanks to his awesome display against Dominic Thiem in their semi final.
Admittedly it was Thiem's debut showing in a semi final at a major, but his tennis has been of such a high standard that expectations were for a much closer battle.
Djokovic played his best tennis for the tournament, and hit shots of such quality that even Thiem's best efforts were not reaping the dividends that they surely would against any other player.  This led to him attempting too much too soon in rallies and committing too many errors.
The first two sets were Novak's 6-2 6-1, before Dominic launched himself into the match, breaking the Djokovic serve and taking a 3-0 lead in the third set.  Temporary respite only as Novak won the next four games and cleaned up the leftovers for a 6-2 6-1 6-4 entry pass to the final.

If Djokovic should win, he would become the first player since Rod Laver to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the one time.  Andy Murray, like Novak, is gunning for his first Roland Garros title and would love to spoil the Serbian party.

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