The Usual and Not So Usual

The top three seeded players in men’s singles await their chance to make a run to the final of Roland Garros: Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and defending champion Stan Wawrinka. The fourth semifinalist is the odd man out — Dominic Thiem. On the women’s side, things didn’t shake out so neatly.

Yes, Serena Williams came from behind to send Yulia Putintseva home, 5-7, 6-4, 6-1. But from what Williams said afterward, she had to work hard for the money.

“I just wasn’t firing the way I wanted to,” Williams said, the WTA reported. “I definitely knew I needed to do something different if I was going to stay in the tournament.”

After breaking the 21-year-old Putintseva to win set two the American did what she does … she won. It was the her 44th Grand Slam quarterfinal. It was Yulia’s first. 

“I think the match was very close,” Putintseva said. “I was trying to do everything what I can, to run, to cover, to attack when I can, to go forward. But it was just unlucky situation [at the] end of the second set.” 

The five-foot-four native of Kazakhstan should stand tall, though. She ran off three games in a row to win the opening set, the first Serena had lost in the tournament. Putintseva will crack the top 40, following the tournament. She came in ranked No. 60.

“I got a lot of experience now,” Putintseva continued. “I played on center court here in Roland Garros, which is great. I just hope to come back stronger and next time to play better in important moments.”

The victory for Williams plants her two wins away from her 22nd Grand Slam singles title and the honor to tie that record set by Steffi Graf. 

Awaiting Williams in Kiki Bertens in one semifinal. No one in their right mind could have predicted that. A year ago, she lost in the first round and revealed that she had survived a cancer scare, which had been discovered months prior. Her fitness went downhill, then, so she played matches outside the WTA Tour. Ones that earned her few points and not much money. Yet a week before this year’s French Open kicked off, Bertens won Nurnberg as a qualifier. 

So, yes, Bertens hadn’t been well know on the big slam stage, but her heart and health have been in the right spot for a magical run in Paris. 

Her job today was tough. She couldn’t maintain a lead, but broke back several times to keep her momentum going. Once she found her rhythm, Timea Bacsinszky (No. 8) could not withstand the consistent pressure. Bertens won, 7-5, 6-2. 

“I was like, can you believe it?” Bertens, the first Dutch woman to advance to the semifinal at Roland Garros since 1971, said. “Because I cannot. And also my parents were like, No … this is not happening. But, yeah, it is.”

Tomorrow Williams (No. 1) will play Bertens while Garbine Muguruza (No. 4) will take on Samantha Stosur of Australia (No. 21). If Williams advances to the final, which she should, she will face a player that has defeated her in a Grand Slam. Muguruza shocked Serena in the second round of this tournament in 2014. It was Muguruza’s breakout performance, much as Bertens is this year. Stosur upset Serena in the U. S. Open final in 2011, and was The French Open runner-up in 2010. 

A Note about Dominic Thiem – Odd Man Out
The Austrian is 22 and turned pro five years ago. He has played more matches than any man on tour this season. He holds a 41-10 overall record, one notch below that of Djokovic. Thiem is part of the new-kids pack and was considered a dark horse from the get-go of the tournament. He is seeded number 13, has a one-handed backhand, scores lots of free points on his serve, and will be ranked in the top ten come Monday morning. 

He had never advanced farther than the third round of any major, before this fortnight, and lost in the second round in Paris last year. He is the first young challenge to the top-ten status quo on the ATP. Tomorrow he will play the toughest match of his life and the most important against the man bound-and-determined to win his first Roland Garros and complete a career Grand Slam — Novak Djokovic. It’s a monumental task for the Austrian, but he is ready. “I have to be patient and wait for my chance to show how dangerous I can be,” he wrote on Twitter.




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