By Ros Satar

  • Dominika Cibulkova v Louisa Chirico [Q]
  • Simona Halep [6] v Sam Stosur

MADRID, SPAIN – Will the Madrid final be a time of reckoning for two former Slam finalists looking to rekindle their previous form, or is the scene set for new blood?

 

Dominika Cibulkova v Louisa Chirico [Q] – First meeting

Either way we are not short for narratives with this semi-final after qualifier Chirico showed that her last gasp acceptance into the field was paying dividends.

She admitted after her quarter-final win that she had landed with literally minutes to go for the final sign-in time, but perhaps more important was her decision to forgo the USTA Roland Garros wildcard play-offs (which she has played for the last couple of years) to prepare for a longer clay court season.

She played well in qualification in Stuttgart, beating the top seed Camila Giorgi for her spot in the main draw before being bundled out somewhat unceremoniously by Petra Kvitova in the opening round without claiming a single game.

She admitted: “I think each week I’m improving. My first round match in Stuttgart was obviously a little bit of a shock. I went out there and I don’t think I was quite ready for the environment and the atmosphere. You know, tried to learn from it even so. I think I’m doing a much better job with handling all that stuff this week.”

She continued: “I knew I was going to not make the main draw of the French. But, you know, at the same time I’m ready to play qualies, and that’s what I’ve prepared for. I’m fine with that. I would much rather be here playing obviously, so I’m happy with the decision.”

A lot of the old guard (Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova) were somewhat indisposed before the start of the tournament, and the draw was blown apart within a matter of days as first the top two seeds lost in the first day, and by day two over half the seeds had gone. The old guard are not going to be around forever, so it is certainly time to eye up who will be jostling to take their place.

2014 Australian Open finalist Cibulkova has scrapped her way through the entire tournament, first dispatching top seed Agnieszka Radwanska and three times coming from a set down to land up in her best showing to date at the Mutua Madrid Open.

Clay is a surface that suits her which is surprising given that all her titles are on hard courts. In 2012 she racked up some of her best performances on the dirt reaching the quarter-finals of Rome and the French Open, and has been as far as the quarter-finals in Madrid in 2011.

Chirico is no slouch on the dirt having put in a lot of time in the lower ITF circuit and she has proved herself certainly this week to be fearless. On current form we can expect the confident Chirico to get off to a strong start but Cibulkova’s experience should shine through.

Cibulkova said, of her next opponent: “[My coach] has his homework. I watched her playing against Gavrilova, she was playing really good. She’s really aggressive, going for her forehand and she has good shots so we’ll see and I will do 100% to get ready for tomorrow.”

Prediction: Cibulkova in three sets.

 

Simona Halep [6] v Sam Stosur – H2H: 3-3

She may not want to acknowledge past years’ levels, and she may just want to just enjoy her tennis, but there is no denying that Halep is the one to beat now. The highest seed left in the draw and the 2014 finalist – her run here led to greater things as she made her first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros, and even managed to stun Serena Williams at the year end finals round robin stages, for the loss of just two games, before losing in the final itself.

Will it be apt for her to guide this WTA draw to some kind of satisfactory conclusion, or given the way that the draw had imploded by the second day, we see a brand new name and indeed face grace Manolo Santana Court on Saturday?

Halep had a stuttering start to her clay court campaign, undercooked and out in her opener in Stuttgart, even declining to come talk to the press. So compare and contrast her easy style and far more relaxed demeanour here.

She defeated compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu (6-3 0-6 6-1), in what has been an outstanding run for Romanians, with four of them alone in the quarter-finals.

She admitted, smiling: “Actually at 3-0 when Darren came I knew it’s going to be 6-0. Then I have just to restart the game like I did in the first set. First set I played good tennis, and in the third set I just reset my mind and I said I have to start playing again.

“It wasn’t my best day. Anyway, if I won means that I played good tennis. I’m confident it was a good match for me. I take it like a positive one, even if I gave that second set easy. I was there until the end, and I’m glad that I could control myself until the end.”

We could have had an all Romanian final but Stosur ended Patricia Maria Tig’s charmed run through the tournament, with a straight sets win and a nervy finish, coming from 0/40 down in the final game to close it out.

It is an even matched affair between the two but it has been a whole since they faced each other on a court. And since that time, Halep has picked up a bunch of titles, and netted herself a Grand Slam final to her name.

Both their fortunes though have dipped but maybe this semi-final signals a time for redemption for either of them, and a good run of form ahead of the French Open,

Prediction: Halep in three sets.

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