I admit to openly and effusively rooting for the two ladies who advanced to the semifinals in the bottom half of the women’s singles draw of Roland Garros 2014. For the first time in their professional careers, Simona Halep and Andrea Petkovic will play in penultimate singles match at a Major. They join Maria Sharapova and Eugenie Bouchard, the top half semifinalists. Consider Simona Halep, at #4 the highest seed remaining in the women’s singles draw. One year ago prior to Roland Garros, she was playing qualifiers just to try to get into events. Her ranking was outside of the top 50 and she had zero WTA singles titles. One year, and a lot hard work, later she is a seeded player at every event she plays. She’s ranked #4 in the world and her title count has risen from the big squadoosh to 7, including this year’s Qatar Total Open at Doha. Simona defeated 2-time Major winner and Roland Garros 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals 6-2 6-2 to earn her spot in the semis. Although Svetlana had some left thigh issues half way through the match, the truth was that the better player on this day was Simona Halep. Until she retired, Kim Clijsters was my favorite player of recent years. I’ve compared some aspects of Halep’s game to Kim’s, particularly the way she comes around the ball and changes directions. To me, she’s almost a mini-version of Clijsters, without the big power. But Simona hits hard enough when it’s needed. Perhaps by this weekend she will be a Major winner like Kim, too.
For Andrea Petkovic, it’s about what she’s had to endure fighting back from multiple injuries. A few years ago, before Angelique Kerber broke through, Andrea was a rising star on tour who looked potentially like Germany’s best female player since Steffi Graf. She was also a fan favorite with her online presence, trademark dance and even a “Petkorazzi” theme song. Then she missed three months in 2012 with a stress fracture in her back and a herniated disc. When she came back, she again fell victim to injury with torn ligaments in her ankle. These injuries when she was on the rise don’t even include the eight months she missed back in 2008 when she tore the ACL in her right knee. Obviously, I hope for no more injuries like these moving forward. She has battled back to be a winner in Charleston this year at the Family Circle Cup. After taking out former Roland Garros finalist Sara Errani 6-2 6-2, Andrea is now one match away from the final. First, she’ll have to get past Simona.
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4 SIMONA HALEP (won 6-2 6-2 vs 27 Svetlana Kuznetsova)
28 ANDREA PETKOVIC (won 6-2 6-2 vs 10 Sara Errani)