Pity those who have ignored the women’s draw at Roland Garros 2017 because of who wasn’t here. Look, I wish Maria Sharapova had been in the tournament. So I understand the disappointment in not seeing all the big names. But tennis doesn’t need Sharapova, Serena or Vika to produce high quality, dramatic sports theater. The women’s singles semifinals were a fine example of that with two terrific matches. Simona Halep followed her great escape against Elina Svitolina with a 6-4 3-6 6-3 victory over 2nd seed Karolina Pliskova. Had Pliskova triumphed, she would have overtaken Angelique Kerber as world #1. Instead, 3rd seed Halep has a chance to be the one to unseat Kerber as #1. To do so, Simona must win the final. Standing in her way will be Jeļena Ostapenko, who leads all players (male and female) in winners at this year’s Roland Garros. She hit another 50 winners to win the battle of the birthday girls against Timea Bacsinszky, 7-6 (4) 3-6 6-3. On paper, with lots more experience, Halep appears to be the favorite. But Ostapenko is playing with no trace of fear. And why should she? Her average forehand speed at this event actually exceeds that of Andy Murray. She can hit an opponent off the court with her weapons. No woman moves on clay better than Simona. She will need to use her superior movement to get back shots from Jeļena that would be winners against other players, making the newly 20 year old hit extra shots and force her into overhitting and errors.
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3 SIMONA HALEP d. 2 Karolina Pliskova, 6-4 3-6 6-3
JEĻENA OSTAPENKO d. 30 Timea Bacsinszky, 7-6 (4) 3-6 6-3