Saturday’s semi-finals at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix looked very enticing on paper and both delivered. In the hotly anticipated match-up between Maria Sharapova and Kristina Mladenovic, it was the Frenchwoman who prevailed in a three set tussle, 3-6 7-5 6-4 in two hours and 38 minutes.
Sharapova had delivered another clean set to win the opener handily, dropping just four points behind her serve. Mladenovic looked nervous and inhibited early on but she improved on return in the second set and began to play *her* game a little bit better with some injections of variety. From a break down and saving three break points in a marathon game at 5-5 (which she won with a killer drop shot), Mladenovic rallied to win the second set.
In the decider, Sharapova’s lack of match fitness was telling as Mladenovic grew more and more into the match, eventually fending off a late charge from Sharapova to reach her fourth WTA final in eight months. Props to Mlads as I wasn’t convinced whether her nerve would hold in such a high calibre match. I don’t think it was her best performance but mentally and tactically, she did a super job to come back and win in three.
There was plenty of anticipation around the handshake but it was professional from both players.
Mladenovic’s press conference is linked below from the WTA’s Facebook page.
It was good to see the WTA actually make an effort in terms of directing fans to streams and I hope they’ve finally woken up and realised this is KEY going forward. I did see some complaints on Twitter that this particular YouTube feed was glitchy and it was only for US viewers. I managed to find another YouTube stream through Twitter though which was really stable – it was such a bonus to be able to watch on a slightly bigger screen!
In the second semi-final, Laura Siegemund’s love affair with Stuttgart continued as she secured her third top ten win of the week, beating Simona Halep for the second straight year, 6-4 7-5. Halep had two set points in the second set leading *5-4 *40-15 but Siegemund came roaring back, winning ten of the last 11 points.
Halep competed pretty well for the majority of the match but just fell away after the missed set points. I think Halep is one of the leading contenders for the French Open although I still have a nagging concern whether her confidence can hold through seven matches as she does have the tendency, like in this match against Siegemund, to drop off her level after missing opportunities. Still, a positive week for the Romanian and great to see her healthy again.
For Siegemund, wow, just wow. She’s had another stunning run and her physical fitness has come through again. To back up her three hour plus win over Pliskova with another top ten win is mightily impressive. Her game and those drop shots are just mesmerising to watch on the Stuttgart clay.
In a final befitting of 2017, Kristina Mladenovic and Laura Siegemund will square off for the 2017 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix title. Siegemund won their only previous match in St. Petersburg last year, 1-6 7-5 6-1. I think it should be a really fun encounter because both play with plenty of variety. I’d have to go for Siegemund – i’m taken with how she can elevate her game at this tournament, thriving on the support of the home crowd. You can just never count her out and I think the adrenaline will overcome her physical exertions of the week. Who you got?
Thanks to those who have commented about Istanbul as i’ve not been following as closely as i’d like this week. Sunday’s final will be contested between Elina Svitolina and Elise Mertens. Svitolina dropped a set in her first match of the week but seems to be gathering pace match-by-match on the clay as she comfortably saw off Jana Cepelova in the semi-finals, 6-2 6-3. I can’t say i’ve been convinced by Svitolina on clay in the past, despite reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open in 2015, but this feels like it should be a great time of the year for her.
Mertens is into her second WTA final of the year and staking her claim for Newcomer of the year – she’s had a brilliant week with battling three set wins over Sara Errani and Cagla Buyukakcay, followed by a 6-1 6-1 (!) rout of Irina-Camelia Begu in the semi-finals. Begu’s stats were…
The two tournaments next week are in Prague (Czech Republic) and Rabat (Morocco). The draws are out for both and if I get a chance, i’ll try and preview them tomorrow.
A word of caution to anyone planning to attend the Aegon International in Eastbourne this year. I’ve just realised that Court 1 is now ALL reserved seating between Monday and Thursday. Previously one side of the court was unreserved for Centre Court ticket holders – now it would seem you’ll need to fork about an extra £28 (Monday and Tuesday) or £32 (Wednesday and Thursday) for a court 1 ticket. An explanation below from the official website. Not good 😦
And finally, three day weekends are glorious. I’m back home and in my happy place.