Set Points, Madrid Day 6: Chirico reaches first WTA semi-final, Halep-Stosur all set for Friday

Quarter-Finals day at the Mutua Madrid Open was a much calmer affair after the drama of Wednesday. It also ended at a reasonable hour so i’ve managed to finish Set Points tonight! While just one seed remains, there’s still plenty of intrigue in this semi-final line-up. This will likely be my last post from Madrid so i’ve incorporated mini-previews with semi-final polls included. Read on for Thursday’s Set Points…

Set PointsLouisa Chirico is into her first WTA semi-final after beating Daria Gavrilova, 7-6(1) 6-2 in the first of the women’s quarter-finals. There were no breaks of serve in the first set, but Chirico rolled through the tiebreak; in a handful of lengthy rallies, Chirico was solid from the baseline as Gavrilova committed a couple of poor errors. Chirico broke serve twice in the second set and didn’t drop serve once throughout the entire match, saving five break points and holding all ten of her service games.

Chirico has now won five matches in Madrid having coming through qualifying.

QR1: Chirico d. Irina Falconi, 6-1 6-1 (0h 57)

QR2: Chirico d. Mariana Duque-Mariño, 7-5 6-1 (1h 20)

R1: Chirico d. Monica Niculescu, 7-5 6-1 (1h 35)

R2: Chirico d. (14) Ana Ivanovic, 5-7 6-1 6-3 (2h 04)

R3: Chirico advanced via retirement against Victoria Azarenka

QF: Chirico d. Daria Gavrilova, 7-6(1) 6-2 (1h 41)

And it’s a nice story because Chirico headed to Madrid without knowing if she had made it into the qualifying draw. I like her attitude, she’s not done yet this week!

I happened to watch Chirico live at Roland Garros last year in her first round match against Ekaterina Makarova (see my recap HERE). I remember being very impressed and even more so in Washington where she reached the quarter-finals after defeating Heather Watson and Alizé Cornet. I really like her game; she’s very solid off both wings, has a biggg forehand but can create some wonderful angles on the backhand. She seems to be pretty solid mentally and particularly on the clay, she moves exceptionally well. Chirico looks set to crack the world’s top 75 next week. At the time of writing, she will have to qualify for Roland Garros…

Chirico

Chirico will play Dominika Cibulkova for a place in the final of Madrid. All of Cibulkova’s wins this week have come in three sets and for the third time in a row, she came from a set down in her quarter-final victory over Sorana Cirstea, fending off an excellent start from the Romanian to win, 4-6 6-3 6-3. Cirstea’s had a great week and the stats show this was a quality match.

I loved the quotes from Cirstea in press yesterday about being more disciplined on court. After watching her victories over Danka Kovinic and Laura Siegemund, I definitely got a sense of this. There are encouraging signs for Sorana going forward *if* she can stay injury free with the shoulder.

Cibulkova reaching the semi-finals is not a huge surprise. She has been knocking on the door all year and won her first title since 2014 in Katowice last month. By virtue of her run this week, Cibulkova looks to have sealed a seeding for Roland Garros. She’s been regularly referred to (at least in my previews!) as one of the most dangerous unseeded players in draws but that will likely change soon…

As regards to Cibulkova v Chirico, it should be a very interesting match. I’d probably give Cibulkova the edge, but I definitely wouldn’t rule Chirico out. I’m probably 55-45 and expecting a close match, three sets.

 

In the all-Romanian quarter-final, Simona Halep recovered from a second set blow-out to get past Irina-Camelia Begu in a wonderfully weird WTA scoreline, 6-3 0-6 6-1. Halep sealed the win with a wonderful jumping backhand winner.

Of the four Romanians who reached the quarter-finals, Halep is the only one to have reached the semi-finals. Sam Stosur will be her opponent tomorrow after she produced a sound display to defeat a gutsy effort from Patricia Maria Tig, 6-3 6-4. I think we’ll be seeing more of the 21-year-old, Tig.

Halep and Stosur are tied at 3-3 in their head-to-head although the pair haven’t played since 2013 in Sofia where Halep won, 2-6 6-2 6-2. Stosur won their only clay court encounters, both at the French Open and before Halep broke through on the tour. This could be a good match, particularly if Stosur gets up for it. Halep’s had a favourable draw but she’s dealing with plenty of pressure as the only seed left. I’d take Simona in three sets.

A big thanks to Murphy for a new guest post from the WTA Stuttgart finals day. If you were following the blog two weeks ago, you’ll know i’m a hugeee fan of this tournament so this guide by Murphy was most informative! I’m thinking about going next year. You can read the post HERE or via the tweet below.

I’ll be back for Rome, which starts on Monday… i’m really looking forward to this tournament! One advantage of most of the seeds going out early in Madrid is they should be well rested in Rome. It’s very encouraging to see Serena already practising…

Follow Moo’s Tennis Blog on Twitter (@Moo_Tennis) HERE and Facebook HERE.

15 thoughts on “Set Points, Madrid Day 6: Chirico reaches first WTA semi-final, Halep-Stosur all set for Friday

  1. What a weird match the quarter between Halep and Begu was… A solid Simona in the first set, Irina’s OCC gets on her nerves and I had a flash back with Simona just walking about giving up the whole match. Instead she ended up reminding me of last year’s Dubai semi versus Woz, when after losing a first set she came back with a punch to win it. Uninspired joke unfortunately as the Romanian press feeds on shit and invented scandal to survive instead of bringing these girls closer together, as Romania doesn’t have a “tennis system”, each girl doing whatever they can on their own to survive and evolve, they only get together on FedCup events and on rare doubles occasions. All in all, a decent showing until now by Simona who has her chance with BamBamSam if Sam keeps giving gifts away like she did with Tig.

    And on that Stosur – Tig match, Sam did give plenty of chances away to Patricia. Tig put a great game up and I’m really proud and hopeful for her. What made the difference in this match was the huuuuge experience Sam has over the 18 WTA level matches Tig has played till now. 32 y/o and over 500 WTA matches versus 21 y/o and 18 WTA matches… I would say it was an impressive performance by Tig overall.

    Sorana v. Dominika… What a rollercoaster of emotions. Sorana was in the game but 2nd and 3rd set Dominika kept having just a small edge. Looking at the stats, both girl played a game that you can barely find fault too, Dominika just did it a bit better. A bit better 1st serve, a bit bigger no. of winners, a bit bigger no. of UEs, but both with a positive Winner/UE stat. It was a nice match, Sorana got frustrated at times, at other times she couldn’t take advantage of some potential gifts from Dominika, but in the end a well fought and deserved win from Cibulkova.

    The takeaway, amazing week from both Sorana and Patricia who both break the top 100 and finally get some main draw access in the coming weeks. Hopefully Sorana keeps improving her game and coming back to the top while Tig gets to build some clearly needed high lever competition experience. She’s got the guts, skills are there, albeit unpolished, but that comes with game time.

    I’m foreseeing a Dominika – Simona final, hopefully with a 2 setter semifinal if in-form Simona shows up against Sam tonight, most likely a 3 setter as Sam’s an “old fox”. 🙂

    Thanks for the nice commentaries this – amazing for Romanians – week James. Nice to see you’re into Sorana’s game.

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  2. Embarrassing semifinals. Really embarrassing. I can’t believe this is a premier mandatory tournament. Halep completely humiliated Stosur, as did Cibulkova with Chirico.

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    • Both players have excelled themselves this week. I find it particularly satisfying to see Domi in such fine form as she’s been languishing in the lower half of the top 100 until Katowice; yesterday was her birthday too. This final will be her first Premier Mandatory level one.

      Simona played the kind of tennis against Sam that took her to No. 2 in the rankings; she’s very hard to beat when she’s playing like this.

      It’s hard to predict finals as one player frequently falls short of expectations after having played hard matches to get there (I’m thinking of BZS against Sara in Dubai in particular), but potentially it should be a great final tomorrow. I’ll be happy with whoever wins but marginally more so with Domi as a win here would make a big difference to her ranking and hence her seeding at top tournaments.

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    • I was expecting such a result after the QF matches. Keep in mind, Halep has beaten Sam on the last 3 occasions they had played and for good reason. Tig gave Stosur too much time on the ball, allowing Sam to dictate and play her game. Halep plays faster, retrieves well and takes away the time from Sam by hitting early and going for direction. With the roof closed and conditions heavy on the court, it was simply a plus for Halep. You could tell Sam was trying to fight back but didn’t have the mental strength/strategy to unsettle Simona in any way. The scoreline seems like an onslaught but it was rather steady quick play that saw Simona through.

      Chirico’s match was more telling. She simply played a superior Gravilova in the form of Cibulkova if you saw that earlier match-up. Every aspect was a level above, serve, strength, movement, mental tactic, and the most annoying part is her intensity. She’ll be all over you if you can’t shake her off and experience on her part will grind you out of your zone. Chirico actually played better at the start of the second when she decided to forget about her opponent and let her game flow. But on clay, it can also take a couple of games to get your rhythm settled. That third game of the set was everything, she couldn’t keep up with Cibulkova’s intensity and hard hitting, it was mentally lost then.

      The final could be very interesting, on a hard surface I would immediately side with Cibulkova. However, the clay makes it more balanced. It would be a mental battle, and hopefully Simona is also prepared for Cibulkova’s flat hard hitting.

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  3. Domi does have a leading H2H against Simona,though last time Simona made the final at Madrid she made the final at RG…..I am going for a Domi win.
    Good to see Serena on the red clay in Rome:)

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    • Yes, praise jesus Serena will be back in Rome. I actually prefer Rome to Madrid anyway. The disgusting way the crowds treat Djokovic sours this tournament for me and I think the coverage that the disrespect gets is even more disgusting. I don’t really like seeing players get booed when they do something to justify it (eg getting stroppy with ball kids, swearing, screaming like a banshee) but Novak has been booed and ‘toot toot’ed a couple of times this week simply for playing well. If he wins then I hope he says something in his speech.

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  4. A well deserved win from Simona today. Domi didn’t play badly and fought valiantly throughout the two sets but never at any point in the match did she really look as though she was going to prevail. Simona served better, anticipated well and, tellingly, she made almost no mistakes; her shots and her returns in particular were pinpoint accurate to the back and the corners of the court.

    IMO, very few players indeed could have beaten her on today’s form, which augurs well for her chances at Roland Garros in a couple of weeks’ time. The match was a good advert for women’s tennis.

    A personal peeve here though; if it were solely up to the British press you wouldn’t know there was a women’s final in Madrid at all (the solitary exception I could find was a brief writeup on the tennis section of BBC Sport Online). The press seemed far more interested in the fact Bernard Tomic used the handle of his racket to hit the ball at match point, and what this implied for the respect he showed the game, did this prove he was a spoiled young millionaire etc., than in what Domi and Simona were doing in their match. Sad.

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    • Tennis really isnt a big thing in this country. Hardly any of my friends or family watch it and folks seem genuinely surprised to learn Wimbledon isn’t the only tennis tournament of the year. Tomic holding his racket backwards makes a great meme though!

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      • Fair point Andrew. Maybe my sense of humour went a bit missing there; maybe for most people Tomic’s eccentric return of serve would be more entertaining than Domi and Simona slugging it out.

        The usual thing for a WTA final though, apart from one of the slams, is that he paper prints a Press Association release saying who was playing, who won, roughly how the match went and what the final score was but no paper I saw even did that this time.

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    • Thanks for the review of the match, Graham! I didn’t get the chance to watch it (enjoying the sunshine!) but a great result for Halep. She’s so confidence driven and if she can keep it up then she makes things more interesting at RG. A personal peeve of mine too, i’ve always thought that BBC Sport’s coverage of tennis has been poor, especially of the WTA tour. Generally I find people will focus more on the bad things (shaking my head at you, Bernard!) and the controversy. I did laugh though at that MP! And I agree with Andrew, tennis doesn’t seem to be that big in the UK aside from Wimbledon. BBC has lost all their coverage of the other Slams although I think ITV do a pretty good job covering the French Open now. BBC seems to be losing a lot sporting events to Sky, I really hope Wimbledon isn’t next…

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    • Domi really didn’t have much of a choice but to play high risk tennis and try to go for her shots. Her unforced error counts was bound to be her undoing against a Halep who was all there and up for a good scrap. Some undue heavy hitting sometimes, but all in all a very decent final. Kudos to Halep.
      This tournament emptied of it’s top seeds rather quickly, so Roland Garros might be a bit different. Hopefully Simona’s draw is favourable so her growing confidence on the clay can also be duly rewarded. Likewise, Cibulkova. It will be good to see some confident players at work.

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