French Open

Halep, Pliskova await French Open birthday girl

2017-06-08 08:01
Simona Halep (Getty)

Paris - French Open semi-finals day on Thursday offer two intriguing storylines as Roland Garros builds towards crowning a first-time Grand Slam title winner. 

Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova clash with a place in the final at stake as well as the world number spot potentially on the line. 

Timea Bacsinszky and Jelena Ostapenko face off on each other's birthday - Bacsinszky turns 28 while her Latvian opponent is 20. 

The two big matches previews:

Final, top spot at stake for Halep, Pliskova

- Simona Halep, the runner-up to Maria Sharapova in 2014, made the semi-finals by coming back from 3-6, 1-5 to beat Elina Svitolina in the quarter-final, saving a match point on the way. The world number four will be playing in her fourth semi-final at the majors and can take the world number one spot if she wins the title on Saturday. Third-ranked Karolina Pliskova will become the new number one if she wins on Thursday. The tall Czech is a late bloomer at Roland Garros. Until this year, she had never got past the second round in five visits. She made the US Open final in 2016 and last eight at the Australian Open in January. Pliskova will put plenty of emphasis on her serve on Thursday -- she has 21 aces in five rounds so far.

 Head-to-head: Halep leads 4-2 

Halep says: "It's gonna come like the ball machine. I have to be strong on my legs." 

Pliskova says: "Simona's running well. I don't know how is the weather forecast tomorrow. If it's like this (cool), it's gonna be tricky, because she's almost everywhere and not missing much." 

Fast facts 

Halep: Age - 25, World ranking - 4; Prize money - $17, 219,302; Career titles - 15; Grand Slam titles - 0; French Open best - Runner-up (2014)

Pliskova: Age - 25; World ranking - 3; Prize money - $8,284,333; Career titles - 8; Grand Slam titles - 0; French Open best - Semi-final (2017)

Path to the quarter-final

Halep 

1st rd: bt Jana Cepelova (SVK) 6-2, 6-3 

2nd rd: bt Tatjana Maria (GER) 6-4, 6-3 

3rd rd: bt Daria Kasatkina (RUS x26) 6-0, 7-5 

4th rd: bt Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP x21) 6-1, 6-1 

QF: bt Elina Svitolina (UKR x5) 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-0

 

Pliskova 

1st rd: bt Zheng Saisai (CHN) 7-5, 6-2 

2nd rd: bt Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 

3rd rd: bt Carine Witthoeft (GER) 7-5, 6-1 

4th rd: bt Veronica Cepede Royg (PAR) 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 

QF: bt Caroline Garcia (FRA x28) 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 

Bacsinszky, Ostapenko in birthday battle

- Timea Bacsinszky and Jelena Ostapenko share the same birthday, but only one wish can come true when they meet for a place in Saturday's final. Swiss 30th seed Bacsinszky, who turns 28 on Thursday, is through to the last four at Roland Garros for the second time in three years, while Ostapenko has knocked out 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur and former number one Caroline Wozniacki in a breakthrough Grand Slam performance. The Latvian, on her 20th birthday, is looking to go one step further than compatriot Ernests Gulbis, who reached the 2014 semi-finals at Roland Garros. Ostapenko will crack the top 30 for the first time after her run in Paris. She is hoping to become the first player since Gustavo Kuerten at the 1997 French Open - the same day Ostapenko was born -- to claim a first tour-level title at a Grand Slam. 

Bacsinszky says: "I think the magic has been happening here for me here always, like, even the first time I came here as a little kid." 

Ostapenko says: "When I came here I didn't expect I'm going to be in the semis, but I was playing better and better every match. If I keep it up, anything can happen."

Head-to-head: First meeting

Bacsinszky: Age - 28; World ranking - 31; Prize money - $5,332,501; Career titles - 4; Grand Slam titles - 0; French Open best - Semi-final (2015, 2017) 

Ostapenko: Age - 20; World ranking - 47; Prize money - $1,288,260; Career titles - 0; Grand Slam titles - 0; French Open best - Semi-final (2017) 

Path to the semi-final 

Bacsinszky 

1st rd: bt Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) 6-1, 6-2 

2nd rd: bt Madison Brengle (USA) 6-0, 6-2 

3rd rd: bt Ons Jabeur (TUN) 6-2, 6-2 

4th rd: bt Venus Williams (USA x30) 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 

QF: bt Kristina Mladenovic (FRA x13) 6-4, 6-4 

Ostapenko 

1st rd: bt Louisa Chirico (USA) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 

2nd rd: bt Monica Puig (PUR) 6-3, 6-2 

3rd rd: bt Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) 6-1, 6-4 

4th rd: bt Samantha Stosur (AUS x23) 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 

QF: bt Caroline Wozniacki (DEN x11) 4-6, 6-2, 6-2

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