With two men’s and two women’s semi-finals pencilled in for Friday at the French Open, Shahida Jacobs, Michael Graham, Kevin Palmer and James Spencer all have their say.
Johanna Konta (26) vs Marketa Vondrousova
Amanda Anisimova vs Ashleigh Barty (8)
Hands up if you predicted Johanna Konta would be the most-experienced player in the Grand Slam semi-final at the start of the French Open.
Women’s tennis is known for producing incredible results, but few would have predicted a Johanna Konta v Marketa Vondrousova in one semi and Amanda Anisimova v Ashleigh Barty in the other.
Perhaps Barty was the one touted to go furthest two weeks ago, but you can’t exactly say she is the favourite against Anisimova, especially after the American blew away defending champion Simona Halep.
If Anisimova produces a similar same display in semi and Barty brings her A-game then were are in for an incredible match. The teenager, though, just seems to have that edge.
The odds are favouring Konta after her flawless performance against Sloane Stephens in the quarter-final. It will be hard for her to top that, but anything close to that and she should make her maiden Grand Slam final.
I’m going for a Konta v Anisimova final.
Michael Graham: It’s tough to see anyone stopping Johanna Konta if she replicates her recent form on clay, let alone such an inexperienced player in Vondrousova.
Konta has shown just about flawless court-smarts on the Paris cay and seems to be peaking at just the right time.
I expect her to be facing Ashleigh Barty in the final, but the Australian will probably have to work for it against the brilliant teenager Anisimova.
Anisimova will be a Grand Slam winner soe day, of that I have little doubt, but Barty is such a solidly complete player I can’t really see her throwing away her big chance.
Barty is one of those who does nothing exceptionally but everything well, and she’ll get the job done.
Johanna Konta will beat Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova in a semi-final that is likely to be played in front of a modest crowd on Court Simonne Mathieu on Friday morning, with the French crowd noted for their inability to fill seats for early morning matches.
The Brit’s performance as she beat Sloane Stephens was so impressive and she should now be viewed as the tournament favourite, but nothing is certain in an unpredictable women’s tournament in Paris.
Ashleigh Barty has to be fancied to see off teenager Amanda Anisimova, even though the teenager turned in a sparkling display to end Simona Halep’s reign as champion on Thursday.
Anisimova has never experienced the tension of a Grand Slam semi-final in her young career and while she will test Barty, expect the Aussie’s big game temperament to carry her into a first Grand Slam final.
Johanna Konta was one of my four picks for the women’s draw, but safe to say I had no idea she would do this well. The British number one has thundered past both Donna Vekic and Sloane Stephens in straight sets and is arguably the favourite now.
The outcome of this match depends on whether Vondrousova is in any way intimidated by the occasion and the court. I’m going to say Konta in straight sets.
Anisimova against Barty is such a close call. Two young stars, 17 and 23 with the world at their feet and a Grand Slam final on the line.
I have to go with Anisimova. She’s saying all the right things and if she plays the way she did against Simona Halep, she is unstoppable.
Roger Federer (3) vs Rafael Nadal (2)
Novak Djokovic (1) vs Dominic Thiem (4)
It’s great to see the top four seeds in the semi-final and the way things have gone it should be one versus two in the final.
Defending champion Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are up first and as much as everyone would love to see the latter back in a final at Roland Garros, you can’t look past the 11-time champion.
He has been ruthless. Sure, Federer has looked a lot more impressive than most predicted, but the Spaniard is just on another level on the red dirt.
The second semi-final should be a lot closer as Thiem continues to prove that he is the Prince of Clay, but he is coming up against a Novak Djokovic that is looking invincible.
As much as one would like to see an upset, you just cannot see past a Djokovic-Nadal final.
Michael Graham:I’d love for Roger Federer to compound the doubters and make a winning return to clay-court tennis, but that’s the romantic in me talking.
Back in the real world, Nadal has always been Federer’s worst nightmare on clay, possessing a comprehensive tool-kit containing everything that can exploit every one of Federer’s few weaknesses.
So, Nadal will make the final and get that chance at winning title number 12, but I fancy Federer to take a set from him.
The other semi is tougher to call. Djokovic has been imperious as ever and Thiem is arguably the second best clay-court player in the world behind Nadal.
This one could be a slog, and you have to fancy Djokovic to sneak it, but I think he may need all five sets.
Roger Federer is a big outsider with the bookies against Rafael Nadal and he deserves to be given his dominant record against his great rival on clay, but the dynamics of this legendary match-up has a few new ingredients this time.
Nadal’s insistence of basing himself a long way behind the baseline when receiving is a tactic that has served him well so far in the French Open, but Federer may look at some of the defeats inflicted on the Spaniard during the clay court season and take some encouragement. Nadal has also shown signs of discomfort when put under pressure in the last 12 months and Federer has to believe he can get his old foe into a tricky position and hope he loses his composure.
The second semi-final could go either way. Novak Djokovic has been outstanding at the French Open so far, but he has shown signs of frailty against Thiem as he has lost two of his last three matches against him on clay. Thiem needs a breakthrough victory against one of the big three in a Grand Slam and he could make it happen against Novak.
Like the millions of tennis fans who are drooling at the thought of this match, I actually can’t wait to see them match-up again for the 39th time. Federer has beaten his closest rival five times in succession but Nadal owns the head to head. Being 91-2 at the French Open must be inspiring for the Spaniard and I can’t see him losing this.
I’m going to say Nadal in straight sets, he’s just too strong on this court and this surface. Sorry Fed.
Thiem-Djokovic is also a humdinger of a semi-final and hopefully it delivers. Thiem may well be an accomplished clay-court player and made the final here last year, but I expect Djokovic to be too strong. The Serb to win in four sets to set up another final against his greatest rival, Nadal.
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