BNP PARIBAS OPEN – LADIES SEMIFINAL PREVIEW

by Karen 

Simona HALEP (ROU) [6] vs Agnieszka RADWANSKA (POL) [2]
Today is the semi-finals of the Premier Mandatory BNP Paribas Open.  Opening proceedings will be Simona Halep (6) going up against No. 2 seed, Agnieska Radwanska.  Of the 2 women, Halep has played the better tennis.  She has been extremely aggressive off the ground and has remained mentally tough in the hard parts of her matches, especially in her match against Eugenie Bouchard of Canada.  This will be a real test of Halep’s rise to the top 10 in the WTA rankings.  Does she have what it takes to figure out the wily game of Radwanska.  I believe she does and I think she will reach her first Premier Mandatory final.
Radwanska if she hopes to win this match cannot have a moment like she did in her match against Alize Cornet when she went on a 16 point losing streak after being up 4-1 in the first set.  Granted she did come back and take that set 7-5 in the first, but that will not work against Halep who seems to be much more focused and determined than Cornet.
Na LI (CHN) [1] vs Flavia PENNETTA (ITA) [20]
In the other semifinal, this puts the current Australian Open champion and No.1 seed, Na Li up against No. 20 Flavia Pennetta.  Pennetta has been playing some no holds barred tennis, apart from the debacle that was her match against Sloane Stephens yesterday.  I am looking for her to come out a bit more focused and steady and improve her first serve stats from the woeful average 42% of first serve that she hit against Sloane Stephens yesterday.  In the first set her serve stats were a paltry 36%.Against Li she will have to improve as Li has been quite dominant on her return of serve, standing up on the baseline to receive second serves and ripping winners off the return. 
For Li, if she wants to add a Premier Mandatory title to her cache of titles, she will have to improve on taking advantage of her opportunities on break points.  In her match yesterday against Cibulkova, her return of serve points on second serves were 36% but what was even worse was the fact that she allowed so many break points to go begging.  She was 6/20 on break points which is a 30% conversion rate.  Cibulkova did not fare much better, going 4/12 (33%).
This is a real pick em but I think that Li will take this one, if only because as the tournament progresses she has grown more confident in her game. 
Odds and Ends
Is Sloane afraid of winning?  On the day that I wrote about the improvements in her footwork, movement and backhand, it is as if she decided that she was going to revert to old Sloane, and she went from immaculate footwork and good decision making on court to just hitting the ball everywhere but where it was supposed to go.  Her footwork was non-existent during her match and it seemed as if she could not figure out why that was the case.  It was an embarrassing display of tennis.  I got absolutely frustrated and left the match after she won the third set.  I had hoped that I would return to see a victory, but it was not to be.  The fact that her opponent did not even wish to see highlights of the match says it all. 
Fifth Slam
I am a tennis traditionalist.  I don’t like change. Maybe that is the reason why I still root for Venus and Federer to continue winning Wimbledon.  I hate on court coaching.  I like that when the tennis season starts, I can look forward to the 4 Majors (Grand Slams) and the anticipation and excitement that each Slam brings to the table.  To start the season there is the Australian Open.  It gives tennis fans who have been waiting in cold climes something to look forward to.  It announces the start of the tennis season and tries to answer all the questions that arise during the tennis “off season”.  By the time the Australian Open is finished, we start asking questions about the French Open.  Will there be a new champion.  All of a sudden we want to see players who have never won a Slam actually win one, and where better than at the French Open.
The run up to the French Open always brings a change of pace to our tennis watching.  Maybe it is the slow clay, the laid back attitude, the fact that tennis is on early in the morning so those of us on the East Coast can enjoy some tennis before we head out for work or maybe it is just seeing red clay, but there is a transition and it not only happens on the court but in your mind as well.
Once the French Open is over and champions crowned, the talk inevitably turns to the green grass of Wimbledon.  People become overnight weather experts and the discussion starts about who will win and the conditions of players entering the Championships and by the time the Championships are over, we are ready for the blue clay and discussions of hurricanes, rain and the roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium.  This heralds the start of the US Open.  By the time that is over and players take a break, we have to look at Davis Cup and Fed Cup, then the year end championships. 
I don’t know about you guys, but by the time the Year End Championships for both tours roll around, I can’t even find the strength to blog much more pay attention to tennis. I am tired and from social media, many fans are tired as well. 

At what point does tennis find time to insert a so-called Fifth Slam?  The calendar is full as it is.  Why is there a need to insert some rich man’s event into the tennis calendar and call it something that it is not.  I like the 4 Grand Slams. I like that there is order to my tennis season.  I like that I know what I need to look for and when.  I say keep the calendar the way it is.  Tennis is overloaded now as it is, we really don’t need or want a Fifth Slam. 

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