French Open Women's Semi-Final Tips: Krejcikova undervalued for Sakkari clash
It's women's singles semi-final day on Thursday, and with four players competing who have never made this stage, Dan Weston returns to preview the day ahead...
Semi-finals featuring four players who have never made this stage
Across numerous women's Grand Slam previews, I've often made the point that there are 20-30 players who should feel confident about their chances of making the latter stages of major tournaments - so competitive is the WTA Tour currently. While this has again manifested itself here in Paris, I didn't remotely expect four players to reach the semi-finals who have never previously made this stage of a Grand Slam in their entire careers, but that is what we have here on what is going to be an intriguing day's play at Roland Garros.
This follows wins on Wednesday for Barbora Krejcikova over Cori Gauff, and very surprisingly, Maria Sakkari over the odds-on tournament favourite, Iga Swiatek - both in straight sets as well. The outright market subsequently has been completely turned on its head, with Sakkari now the 2.30 favourite to win the tournament with Krejcikova at 4.0, Pavlyuchenkova at 4.3 and Zidansek the outsider at 10.0.
Sakkari over-rated by the market against Krejcikova
What I struggle to understand here mostly is Sakkari's price. Given that she is 1.62 for her semi-final today against Barbora Krejcikova, it would imply that she's going to start at an average of 1.42 for a final against either Pavlyuchenkova or Zidansek.
In my view, she'd be favourite against both but not this short, and I think that the outright market and the market for today's match against Krejcikova is overvaluing Sakkari.
One of the main reasons for Swiatek being overvalued could potentially be her defeat of Swiatek, which as mentioned, was a real surprise given Swiatek's 22 consecutive sets won in the tournament and absurdly strong overall clay numbers.
If we look at clay data this year, Krejcikova has won almost 4% more service points and 2% fewer return points, so has an overall combined service/return points won advantage over Sakkari. She may be lower ranked but the Czech right-hander has a real clay pedigree with incredible ITF numbers in advance of her breaking through on the main tour. At 2.58, Krejcikova looks pretty generously priced.
Pavlyuchenkova favourite over Zidansek
Prior to this, however, is the first semi-final between Pavlyuchenkova and Zidansek. It's Pavlyuchenkova who is the market favourite at 1.63, which looks a few ticks short but not unduly so. Zidansek is another lower-ranked clay-courter who has done well in lower-profile events, and I think this should be pretty competitive.
Pavlyuchenkova's big-match experience - she's played over four times the amount of WTA Tour semi-finals or finals to Zidansek's tally - could well be a factor here, but this also looks a fascinating clash which is difficult to call.
In my view, the fact that there are so many matches in the latter stages of women's singles Grand Slams which look so competitive is a fantastic advertisement for the tour. With so many men's matches across the last decade or so being like an absolute procession in the second week, I am looking forward to the time when this dynamic also becomes more prevalent on the ATP Tour as well.
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