Three matches, three wins, no set conceded. Simona Halep’s journey to Rome is bordering on perfection for the moment. On Saturday, the number 1 seed of the tournament gave up only two games to her unfortunate opponent Yulia Putintseva, 30th player in the world, forced to retire due to injury at the start of the second round (6-2, 2-0 ab. ).
Hit in the lower back, the Kazakhstani could only last 48 minutes on the court. A godsend for the Romanian who should pass a first big test in the semi-final against Garbiñe Muguruza who defeated Victoria Azarenka (3-6, 6-3, 6-4).
Yulia Putintseva has undoubtedly paid for the efforts made in her last two victories in three sets against Petra Martic and then Elena Rybakina. In all, she had already spent 7:22 on the court this week, before crossing swords with Halep. She therefore quickly wanted to shorten the exchanges, and with some success at the start of the match. At 1 game everywhere, she got two break points (at 15/40), making good use of cushioning and long backhand winning lines.
“I really want to win this tournament”
But Halep saved them and didn’t look in the rearview mirror, anticipating better and better the opposing amortizations over the first set. The Romanian, more and more efficient in the exchange and in her changes of direction, was no longer threatened by her entry. Between the two sets, Putintseva took a medical time out to have his back manipulated.
She could only hold two games, lost, on her return. One week before Roland-Garros, she preferred not to insist: a sad end to a good week for her, like what Daria Kasatkina experienced on Friday (abandonment due to ankle injury after a fall).
“I really want to win this tournament. I love playing here, I made five semi-finals (including this year’s one), so I hope to have a chance in the very near future, commented the Romanian, beaten in the final in 2017 and 2018. I am very happy with my match. I felt really good on the court, much better than in the previous match.”
Muguruza had (very) strong nerves
To achieve this, however, it will have a lot to do. Because a Garbiñe Muguruza found will stand in front of her on the other side of the net. The Spaniard put an end to the course of the current form player: Victoria Azarenka later in the day. It had all the more merit that the affair was badly started. Led by a set and a break, the Australian Open finalist finally dominated that of the US Open in three sets (3-6, 6-3, 6-4) and 2:19 of play.
The quality of the match was also up to expectations, the two rivals making the ball travel at high speed in fierce exchanges from the baseline. Broken in the 4th game of the game, Muguruza however failed to seize any of her three successive opportunities to come back to height immediately in a first set which could have weighed heavily in the balance.
On the restart, the Spaniard and the Belarusian did wonders with their aggressiveness: 7 of the 9 games in the 2nd set were breaks. And Muguruza had the nerves to reset the counters to zero. On her momentum, she widened the gap at the start of the 3rd set (3-6, 6-3, 3-1), before a new reversal of the situation: Azarenka aligned 3 games then obtained a ball of 5-3, saved brilliantly by his opponent on a winning backhand. Past close to defeat, Muguruza finally won 10 points in a row to win after a thrilling battle.
Svitolina on the mat, Pliskova still there
The other semi-final of the women’s tournament will pit defending champion Karolina Pliskova – Elise Mertens in three sets (6-3, 3-6, 6-0) – against Marketa Vondrousova. The young Czech beat up Elina Svitolina in two dry innings (6-3, 6-0) and will have to get the best of her compatriot to play her first final since Roland Garros 2019.