The finals of the 2018 French Open are fast approaching. Plenty has changed over the past few weeks but which men and women look likely to win the second Grand Slam of the year? Mats Wilander has analysed the upcoming matches.
Given that Serena Williams will take a while to get back to her best and Maria Sharapova hasn’t been the same since returning from her ban, the four women left in this year’s French Open are probably the best four players in the world at the moment.
Two great women’s semi-finals
The semi-final everyone seems to be looking forward to the most is the World No. 1 Simona Halep against two-time Grand Slam winner Gabine Muguruza. Most people think the winner of the women’s French Open will come out of this match but we’ll get onto that later.
Although it could be said that Muguruza has simply taken advantage of the lack of a elite talent in the women’s game with her recent success, she has proven she can beat whatever has been put in front of her (including Serena Williams in the 2016 French Open final).
Although these women are professional athletes sometimes it’s hard to control your natural emotion and block out who is on the other side of the net.
Halep vs. Muguruza is an intriguing matchup. The Romanian lacks the power to consistently finish the point on clay but she is incredibly difficult to break down. In contrast, the Spanish-Venezuelan is very aggressive but doesn’t over-hit the ball, matches are often played on her terms but she isn’t too risky - think a female Novak Djokovic.
In the other women’s semi-final we have two Americans who are very good friends going up against each other. Sloan Stevens has arguably underachieved in her career to date (despite last year’s US Open win). She’s very talented, quick across the court and has great technique in all her strokes - you’ll struggle to find any player who makes it look as easy as she does when she’s on her game.
The problem for Stevens is that she’s coming up against a solid opponent and a close friend. Although these women are professional athletes sometimes it’s hard to control your natural emotion and block out who is on the other side of the net (as Keys found out when the two met in the US Open final last year).
Keys has a massive forehand, one of the biggest in world tennis (and I’m not just talking about the women’s game). Her weakness is her inconsistency but when it comes together she is almost impossible to stop.
Are there signs of uncertainty in the men’s draw?
Diego Schwartzman managed to do what everyone had been waiting for in the first set and a half of his match against Nadal - he made the heavy pre-tournament favourite panic. Not only did the Argentinian become the first man to take a set off Nadal at the French Open since 2015, he showed that you don’t need to be tall to be able to deal with Nadal’s spin and high bounce like everyone thought.
Schwartzman showed everyone what you need to do to beat Nadal - play an incredibly aggressive style of tennis that is confuses the Spainaird and makes him beat himself. Up until play was suspended yesterday, Schwartzman had an almost 50/50 split of winners and unforced errors.
The men are in a fairly similar position compared to when the tournament started, you can’t really look past Nadal in terms of the winner because he is just so good on clay.
The break has helped Nadal and as expected he has performed better today and will progress to quarter-final but it will have certainly taken something out of him - maybe not physically but definitely psychology. Schwartzman’s performance will also give Nadal’s next opponent a massive confidence boost.
Marin Cilic vs. Juan Martin del Potro has been a good tennis match. As expected there isn’t much in the points and it’s just two guys with a big game and powerful strokes going at each other. Whoever progresses from these two players will be in a good rhythm heading into the semi-final.
It’s a bit of a shame that Alexander Zverev’s five setters caught up with him in his match against Dominic Thiem. Take nothing away from Thiem, he deserves to be in the semi-final but his match against the young German was pretty much a no-contest after he strained his hamstring midway through the second set.
As disappointing as it might be for the fans, Thiem’s easy match against Zverev and extra day’s rest could prove to be crucial. After suspended play, those on Nadal’s side of the draw would have played in four of the last five days if they make it to the final whereas the other side of the draw have played just of the previous five days (assuming there is no more delays).
The men are in a fairly similar position compared to when the tournament started, you can’t really look past Nadal in terms of the winner because he is just so good on clay. However, we’ve seen a few chinks in his armour and he’s not as unbeatable as we might have thought. One thing’s is for certain, we’re going to see some great tennis over the next few days.