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French Open Tips & Preview – Men’s & Women’s Semi-finals

Get you French Open tips for all four semi-finals for Thursday’s women’s and Friday’s men’s semi-finals from the 2023 French Open. 

French Open Tips – Karolina Muchova V Aryna Sabalenka

23:05 (AEST), Thu 8th Jun @ Stade de Roland Garros, Paris

History: Played 1: Sabalenka 1, Muchova 0

Last meeting: WTA Elite Trophy, 2019 (SF) – Sabalenka d Muchova 7-5 7-6

Final Thoughts: Reigning Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka is a hot favourite to qualify for her second slam final in succession – and a likely dream showdown with defending French Open champ Iga Swiatek.

A semi-finalist at Wimbledon (2021) and the US Open (2020-21), the French Open had been a bogey for Sabalenka, failing to make it past the third round previously. But her clay-court credentials were not in question, winning the Madrid Masters in 2021 and winning that tournament again this year with an upset of Swiatek in the final.

Sabalenka is yet to drop a set in this Roland Garros campaign, leaving Marta Kostyuk, relative unknowns Iryna Shymanovich and Kamilla Rakhimova, 2018 runner-up Sloane Stephens and former world No.3 Elina Svitolina in her wake. The yips that previously held her back at grand slam level appear to be a thing of the past – the 25-year-old has the mental fortitude to complement her power and athletic gifts.

Her next opponent, 43rd-ranked Karolina Muchova, is a surprise semi-finalist, though she did make it to the last four at the Australian Open two years ago. It’s also her first time past the third round at the French Open, building on a solid lead-in at the Rome Masters where she made the Round of 16.

The 26-year-old Czech was handed a tough first-round draw against eighth seed Maria Sakkari but won in straight sets. She then eliminated Nadia Podoroska in three, before powering past 27th seed Irina-Camelia Begu, bolter Elina Avanesyan and 2021 finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkvoa.

Sabalenka is a big step up in quality, but the crafty Muchova does have the tools to disrupt the Belarusian’s rhythm. Though an upset seems highly unlikely, Muchova looks a handy option with a generous headstart.

Tip: Games Handicap – Muchova +4.5 @ $1.89

French Open Tips – Iga Swiatek V Beatriz Haddad Maia

00:30 (AEST), Fri 9th Jun @ Stade de Roland Garros, Paris

History: Played 1: Haddad Maia 1, Swiatek 0

Last meeting: Canadian Open, 2022 (R32) – Haddad Maia d Swiatek 6-4 3-6 7-5

Final Thoughts: Iga Swiatek is steamrolling her way through another French Open draw and $9 outsider Beatriz Haddad Maia is expected to be cannon fodder for the world No.1 in her first grand slam semi final.

An unseeded, teenaged Swiatek famously won the 2020 French Open without dropping a set and lost only one set on her way to a second Roland Garros triumph last year. Her ‘Queen of Clay’ status receive a couple of dents via her loss to Aryna Sabalenka in the Madrid final and to Elena Rybakina in the Rome quarters, but Swiatek has not looked troubled at any stage of this campaign.

Cristina Bucsa, Claire Liu, Wang Xinyu, Lesia Tsurenko and Coco Gauff – her 2022 final victim – all failed to win more than six games in convincing defeats to the Polish wunderkind.

Haddad Maia, the 14th seed, charged up the rankings last year by winning the Nottingham Open and Birmingham Classic on grass, then reaching the hard-court Canadian Open final. Her clay-court build-up this year was headlined by a quarter-final run in Rome.

The Brazilian had not been past the second round in a grand slam career that dates back to the 2017 French Open, but she’s showed tremendous poise under third-set pressure on this breakout run. Tatjana Maria took just one game off her in the first round, but she needed three sets to beat Diana Shnaider, before coming from a set down to eliminate 23rd seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, Sara Sorribes Tormo and seventh seed and two-time slam finalist Ons Jabeur.

But Swiatek is highly unlikely to let any lapses go unpunished or allow Haddad Maia to work her way back into the match if the underdog gets off to a slow start. Winning their only previous clash may provide some confidence but Haddad Maia is right behind the eight-ball taking on the ruthless Swiatek at Roland Garros.

Tip: Games Handicap – Swiatek -6.5 @ $1.68

French Open Tips – Casper Ruud V Alexander Zverev

20:00 (AEST), Fri 9th Jun @ Stade de Roland Garros, Paris

History: Played 3: Zverev 2, Ruud 1

Last meeting: Miami Open, 2022 (QF) – Ruud d Zverev 6-3 1-6 6-3

Final Thoughts: Casper Ruud is one win away from his second straight French Open final, while Alexander Zverev won’t get a better shot at a long-awaited berth in a Roland Garros decider.

Fourth seed Ruud – who was no match for Rafael Nadal in last year’s final – flew under the radar coming into this tournament but has been in fine form in Paris. He beat Elias Ymer in straight sets, Guilio Zeppieri and Zhang Zhizhen in four, Nicolas Jarry in a lengthy three-setter and sixth seed Holger Rune – who defeated him in the recent Rome Masters semis – in a surprisingly convincing 6-1 6-2 3-6 6-3 result.

Ruud is 2-0 in grand slam semis, having also reached the US Open final last year.

Zverev, meanwhile, has won just one (at the 2020 US Open) of five grand slam semi-finals. He exited at this stage of the past two French Opens, to Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nadal, respectively.

The German was forced to retire against Nadal with an injury that sidelined him for the rest of 2022. He’s slowly worked his way back to form this season and the 22nd seed is enjoying an outstanding tournament. After beating Lloyd Harris and Alex Molcan in straight sets, Zverev outlast 12th seed Frances Tiafoe in four sets after dropping the first, put away 28th seed Grigor Dimitrov convincingly and defeated breakout star Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Zverev won his first two matches against Ruud at the Cincinnati Masters and Paris Masters in 2021 in straight sets, but Ruud took out their most recent clash, a 6-3 1-6 6-3 result at the 2022 Miami Masters.

There’s nothing in this one, with Zverev a narrow $1.80 favourite. It has the makings of a classic semi and while Ruud may have the slightest of advantages, it seems destined to go the distance.

Tip: Total Games – Over 39.5 @ $1.90

French Open Tips – Carlos Alcaraz V Novak Djokovic

20:00 (AEST), Fri 9th Jun @ Stade de Roland Garros, Paris

History: FPlayed 1: Alcaraz 1, Djokovic 0

Last meeting: Madrid Open, 2022 (SF) – Alcaraz d Djokovic 6-7 7-5 7-6

Final Thoughts: It seems a shame this isn’t the final, but world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz and third-ranked Novak Djokovic are certain to produce an enthralling semi-final entree.

Alcaraz announced himself last year by winning the Miami Masters and the Madrid Masters, defeating Djokovic in the semis of the latter. The then-19-year-old was halted in the quarters at the subsequent French Open by Alexander Zverev but went on to win the US Open, with Djokovic banned from competing.

The Spanish tyro had the start of his 2023 campaign interrupted by injury but he’s been dominant since returning, taking out the Indian Wells title and another Madrid Masters crown. He dropped a set to Taro Daniel in the second round of this tournament but has otherwise crushed the opposition – including 26th seed Denis Shapovalov, 17th seed Lorenzo Musetti and fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in his last three fixtures by margins of 10 games or more.

Though overshadowed by Rafael Nadal throughout his French Open career, 22-time major winner Djokovic has triumphed twice at Roland Garros – in 2016 and ’21 – and finished runner-up on four occasions. He boasts a sensational 33-11 record in grand slam semi-finals – but even more incredibly, he’s won 19 of his last 20.

Djokovic won the Australian Open in January (with Alcaraz absent) but had endured a patchy clay swing. He clicked into grand slam mode immediately in Paris, however, beating Aleksandar Kovacevic, Marton Fucsovics, 29th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Juan Pablo Varillas in straight sets. Eleventh seed Karen Khachanov provided a belated test, but Djokovic eventually got on top to win 4-6 7-6 6-2 6-4.

The electric Alcaraz deserves his favouritism, but whether he should be as short as $1.45 to dispose of one of the greatest of all time – and perhaps the best defender that has ever been – is debatable. This should be a rollercoaster between two supreme athletes at opposite ends of the experience scale, with Djokovic a huge chance and top value as an underdog.

Tip: Set Handicap – Djokovic +1.5 @ $1.82

Related

AUS OPEN PREVIEW – WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT

AUS OPEN PREVIEW – MEN’S TOURNAMENT

US Open Preview – Men’s Tournament

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