French Open women's quarterfinals preview: Halep, Martic take on relative greenhorns
The crowds at Roland Garros 2019 have witnessed a grueling week of tennis which saw big names like Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova biting the dust, and other relative greenhorns making it big.
The last-8 lineup, led by defending champion Simona Halep, now hangs in the balance with a mix of experienced and fresh faces; two former Grand Slam champions and three first-time quarterfinalists have made the cut. Here is a look at the prospects of the remaining eight players.
Madison Keys vs Ashleigh Barty
Madison Keys and Ashleigh Barty have had the easiest of paths leading up to the this stage. Both of them are yet to face a seeded player and have had relatively easier opponents, at least in comparison to their fellow quarterfinalists.
It is, therefore, a little difficult to formulate a clear idea of their form coming into this match. Keys, in particular, has had it easy in terms of opponents. While she did lose two tight sets in her second and third round matches, the American managed to bounce back quickly to come out on top on both occasions. She has not yet been pushed to a point where she has had to raise the level of her game over the ordinary.
Barty, on the other hand, has played seasoned opponents including Andrea Petkovic and Danille Collins and has impressed with her game in both the encounters. She has been in good form in 2019 and would be looking to go one step further from her quarterfinal showing at the Australian Open earlier this year.
Prediction: Ashleigh Barty in two sets.
Simona Halep vs Amanda Anisimova
Halep should write thank you notes to both Magda Linette and Ajla Tomljanovic. Whatever these two women did to push the defending champion in the first two rounds has toughened her so much that she has lost just 4 games since.
Halep's match against Linette was one of the highlights of the first week. The two played at an exemplary level in a match that had every element of an all-time classic: punishing rallies, roaring winners, missed opportunities, unbelievable comebacks, everything. And the match helped Halep reach a level that has proven too strong for her subsequent opponents.
Amanda Anisimva's performance over the week has been nothing short of exemplary itself, but at this moment it seems like it is Halep's time to shine. Anisimova is a talented youngster, one to watch out for in the future, but she will most likely be at the receiving end of Halep's skills in this one.
Prediction: Halep in two.
Sloane Stephens vs Johanna Konta
You never know what to expect from Sloane Stephens when she is stepping out on the court. There is little point in talking about her form prior to a particular match, because the American plays such an erratic brand of tennis that it has ceased to surprise spectators now.
Stephens' quarterfinal match against a resurgent Johanna Konta would be no different. While Konta has been in fine form this season, she will still be the underdog in this one. Stephens definitely holds an upper hand when it comes to the baseline rallies, the kind that are likely to feature in a large part of the match.
Only if Konta can find a way to frustrate Stephens to a point where she starts to make errors, does she stand any chance. Unforced errors will be a key stat: whoever manages to keep them under check will have a better shot at winning.
This one seems to be on Stephens' racket (based on the performances in the opening few rounds), and her performance on the day will likely decide the outcome.
Prediction: Stephens in three.
Marketa Vondrousova vs Petra Martic
Not a lot of people would have seen this one coming. And yet, it is perfectly justified; both Marketa Vondrusova and Petra Martic deserve to be in this position, having played consistently well at the top level for quite a while now (Martic won her first WTA title beating Vondruosova in the final of the Istanbul Open earlier this year).
Here, it will come down to who wants it more on the day. Vondruosova will be eager to get her revenge from the earlier loss this year. Pair that with her powerful go-getter style of play and you have trouble brewing for Martic,
The Croat, however, has shown that not having huge weapons from the baseline, the likes of which young guns including Vondruosova rely heavily on, cannot stop you from winning the big matches. She has grown in confidence this season and is arguably playing the best tennis of her career.
Her win over Pliskova in the second round here would have given Martic plenty of self-belief to win the really important matches. Vondruosova, just like Anisimova, is obviously a star in the making, but this French Open might just be one for the old warhorses.
Prediction: Petra Martic in three.