Serena & Sharapova Into French Final

By Jane Voigt

June 6, 2013 -- Double faults, breaks of service, and deafening squeals came to play on Court Philippe Chatrier today for the first of two women's singles semifinals. The second match was but a blip on the terre-battue and confirmation of who is in charge of women's tennis.

Match One -- Maria Sharapova, the No. 2 seed, has habits. Like Rafael Nadal she is particular. She spreads the tournament towel over her legs and pats it. She then sips her energy drink and places it carefully beside her chair -- in the same spot it was first put. Another habit … beginning the match at a deficit. 

Yesterday she lost the first set at love, then sprung back. Today she lost the first game against the No. 3 seed, Victoria Azarenka. "Vika" looked pretty pleased, especially since two points of that game were earned from two double faults. Maybe her first French Open semifinal would result in a chance for the title.

But don't be misled. Sharapova played her best set of the match, winning it 6-1 in less in 28 minutes. She closed it with an ace. And, she closed the match two sets later with another ace: 61 26 64. 

"I had a tremendous year last year," Sharapova told the press. "It's extremely special to get back on that stage where it comes down to the last two players in the tournament. I'm a better mover on clay that I used to be but what's helped me is the confidence I have on court in terms of getting myself back in to position. I hope I can bring my best tennis to that match."

If she wants to bring her best tennis to Saturday's final, she better cut down the unforced errors. She committed 39 over three three sets, but wound up with 42 winners. And although she hit 11 double faults, she smacked 12 aces. Given how close these comparative measures are, they basically left her even.

The second set began a struggle to defend their serves because Maria and Vika return serve better than most of the WTA. Perhaps the effects of Azarenka's speedy returns crept in Maria's head and wobbled her arm when serving because she lost the set on a double fault, following a 4-game Vika winning streak.

In one instance Sharapova looked as if her surgically repaired shoulder was at fault. She raised and lowered it, a slight grimace on her face. She gave nothing away on court, though, stoic and taciturn every point. And said nothing about it later. 

Sharapova served twice for the match, and her second consecutive final at Roland Garros, once at 5-2 and then again at 5-4. 

Sharapova has played in 8 Major finals, winning 4: The Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and The U. S. Open. She celebrated her career Grand Slam last year in Paris. 

Her win secures her No. 2 WTA ranking, come Monday. Azarenka would have taken over at two had she won today. 

"I'm not happy about the match," Azarenka said. "But I think it was a good fight. Overall I have to give myself credit for going one step further. This French Open is definitely the best for me so far."

Match Two -- Roland Garros is a spring tennis celebration for the French. They are active fans and unrestrained during matches. They love 'the wave' and display their pleasure of a match, and the players, via this goofy collective rolling gesture. There were no waves during the Serena Williams and Sara Errani match, up second on stadium court.

First, there wasn't much time. 

Serena Williams displayed her absolute best tennis of the tournament. She confirmed to the world her dominance of the sport, and left people silently retreating from the stands afterward, according to Steve Tignor at Her momentum from start to finish was a rising line that ended only when she hit her last of 5 aces. 

She won 60 61 in 46 minutes, hitting 40 winners and 12 unforced errors. Errani could do nothing because of the spectacular tennis Serena played. In contrast the No. 5 seed hit 2 winners and only 3 unforced errors. The stat was low because she didn't connect with the ball enough times to force errors. 

"She played unbelievable -- that's it," Errani said. "When she plays like this, it's very difficult for me to play. She's very strong so there's nothing to be done. Honestly, I enjoyed playing today. It was a great court, great weather, everything. I tried everything and gave my all. She had a great day. This is sport."

When Errani won her one and only game, she threw her arms up in a 'V' for victory. At that moment, the crowds reacted.

Serena likes and respects Errani, which the American and top seed had expressed earlier in the week and on other occasions. She knows how she moves the ball, and how her fighting spirit does not relent. 

"When you go out there, you have to forget about who you're playing," Serena began. "It would be awesome to win the tournament. But right now it's still a dream. I'm feeling comfortable here this time. What's changed? I didn't lose in the first round."

Serena has served two 'bagel' sets at Roland Garros since 2004. This year she has served 3. And the last time an opening set was won at love came in 2008 at The Australian Open where Ana Ivanovic defeated Daniela Hantuchova. 

The WTA noted today on Twitter that the most one-sided semifinals at Roland Garros came in 1984, 1973, and today. In '84 Evert defeated Benjamin 60 60; and in 1973 Evert defeated Durr 61 60. 

"Everyone [is] getting steamed up about Serena's crushing of Errani are missing the point," Richard Evans, a long-time tennis writer on Twitter. "Serena is totally exceptional. Normal rules don't apply."

Serena's and Maria's final on Saturday features the number one and two seeds. It's the first time that the two top seeds have played a French Open final since 1995. In that year, No. 1 Aranxtna Sanchez Vicario met No. 2 seed, Stefi Graf. Graf won 75 46 60. 

Maybe this bagel thing is a trend. 

#bagel #zip #zero #loveisfortennisplayers

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013