“It’s a mental game.”
How many times have we heard someone say that about tennis? And yet, it never gets old – Novak Djokovic and Elina Svitolina’s performances yesterday were further proof of that.
Two very different matches, but in each they were cost largely by the state of their own psyche – Djokovic, essentially giving up in the third set against Dominic Thiem, Svitolina, succumbing to nerves after taking a 6-3, 5-1 lead over Simona Halep.
Much has already been made (and will continue to) about these defeats and how they will affect Djokovic and Svitolina, but on a grander scale it must be said that this is part of the beauty of singles tennis. Just as in life, individuals can accomplish great things, but none of us are perfect, and our shortcomings and how we deal with them are just as much a part of us as our successes. This isn’t the end of the world for Svitolina and Djokovic, merely the start of the next challenge to be overcome.
Of course, Roland Garros continues on, and with it comes women’s semifinals day. Read on for a look at the two matches on offer.
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) vs Timea Bacsinszky (SUI)  – 1st on Philippe Chatrier
Even in a draw with as much uncertainty as this year’s womens, Ostapenko/Bacsinszky is quite the turn-up. Neither woman has won a title this year (or in Ostapenko’s case, ever) but are now two wins away from a grand slam title, and will be facing off for the first time in their careers. An interesting contrast in styles, both women will slide comfortably into their assigned roles of aggressor (Ostapenko) and defender (Bacsinszky), and it’s truly hard to pick who has the advantage. Ostapenko will undoubtedly cause trouble with her more penetrative groundstrokes and if hot could simply blow Bacsinszky off the court, but the Swiss has already demonstrated this tournament an ability to weather the storms of such hard-hitting, and can create offense as easily with her placement, whether on deep, looping forehands or wickedly spinning dropshots. There really is too much unknown with this match to pick a definitive favourite – the only certainty is when it’s over, one players is gonna have a really dodgy birthday.
Simona Halep (ROU)  vs Karolina Pliskova (CZE)  – 2nd on Philippe Chatrier
If the first match of the day is a battle of two unlikely contenders, the same can’t be said for this match. Halep and Pliskova are obviously two of the WTA’s premier players, and this could end up being viewed in retrospect as essentially the final. That said, it’s hard to place Pliskova’s current form given her exceptionally easy draw up to this point, facing only one seed in her last match against Caroline Garcia, and now faces a woman who she has only beaten once in five attempts. Of course, Halep was lucky to escape her quarterfinal, but she matches up particularly well with Pliskova, and when the latter hits at the Romanian, she tends to be able to wear her down with her defensive prowess until she can unseat the Czech with her ability to stretch the court. If Pliskova is to turn the tables, she’s going to have to play first-strike tennis from point one, go down the line early and often, and maybe swap Halep’s water for vodka. This could be either a routine win for Halep or an epic three-setter for either player, but you have to like the Romanian’s chances.