Christophe Ena/Associated Press
The 2020 French Open women’s semifinals feature a unique combination of top championship contenders and unexpected title threats.
On one side of the draw, Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin will take on two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. On the other side, a pair of unseeded players, Iga Swiatek and Nadia Podoroska, are each making their first appearance in a Grand Slam semifinal.
Let’s check out all of the key details for Thursday’s action at Roland Garros. That’s followed by predictions on who will advance to Saturday’s tournament final.
Where: Stade Roland Garros in Paris
When: Thursday, Oct. 8, at 9 a.m. ET
Watch: Tennis Channel (9 a.m. ET) and NBC (11 a.m. ET)
Live Stream: Tennis Channel Plus and NBC Sports Live
First Semifinal: Iga Swiatek vs. Nadia Podoroska
It typically takes seven straight wins to win a major title. In Podoroska’s case, the magic number is 10 since she survived three rounds of qualifying just to earn entrance in the main draw.
The 23-year-old had never won a Grand Slam singles match before the French Open, but she did showcase an uptick in form leading up to the event. The No. 131-ranked woman in the world reached the semifinals of the Prague Open and then won the ITF’s L’Open de Saint-Malo in her final warm-up tournament.
That’s carried over to Paris, where her journey to the semifinals hasn’t been a fluke. The Argentine has dropped just two sets through five rounds and is coming off a dominant 6-2, 6-4 win over third-seeded Elina Svitolina.
Her strong defensive style of play led her to win 64 percent of her receiving points in the quarterfinal, and she converted eight of her 13 break points.
Meanwhile, no player in Paris has been more impressive than Swiatek.
Ranked 54th in the world, she opened the tournament with an upset of 15th-seeded Marketa Vondrousova and then shocked the tennis world by crushing Simona Halep in the fourth round. Halep, who’d dropped just one game against No. 25 Amanda Anisimova in the previous round, won just three games against Swiatek.
The 19-year-old rising star from Poland reached this stage without losing a set, and her future outlook has improved exponentially regardless of what happens over the next two rounds.
These type of matches, where both players are within reach of a major title for the first, are always difficult to predict, but it’s hard to pick against Swiatek at this stage.
Pick: Swiatek in straight sets
Second Semifinal: (4) Sofia Kenin vs. (7) Petra Kvitova
Kenin hasn’t been in peak form for much of the tournament, having been forced to three sets in four of her five matches, but she’s always stepped up in the deciding set. She didn’t lose more than three games in the third set in any of her wins.
Her margin for error will be far smaller against Kvitova, who represents a sharp increase in the level of competition after a mostly favorable draw so far.
The 30-year-old Czech has won both previous WTA Tour meetings against the 21-year-old American. This is their first matchup of 2020, though.
Their latest meeting will likely hinge on two factors: net play and Kvitova’s first serve.
Both players were moderately effective at the net in the quarterfinals (nine points on 64 percent efficiency for Kvitova and eight points on 53 percent efficiency for Kenin), but they each may choose to come forward a little more to seek cheap points against an opponent who can rack up winners.
Meanwhile, Kvitova is coming off a win over Laura Siegemund in which she compiled six aces and won 77 percent of the points on her first serve. That’ll be a serious advantage if she can maintain a similar level against a tougher foe in Kenin.
Pick: Kvitova in three sets