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Roland Garros Semifinal Preview

The story of the day on semifinal Thursday will be Maria Sharapova attempting to reclaim the World No.1 ranking.

Published June 06, 2012 06:59

Roland Garros Semifinal Preview
Maria Sharapova

PARIS, France - The French Open final four will be contested by a player going for the career Grand Slam, two of the last three major champions and a darkhorse competing in their first Grand Slam semifinal - none of whom has captured Roland Garros before.

Thursday, Semifinals

Court Philippe Chatrier
[4] Petra Kvitova (CZE #4) vs. [2] Maria Sharapova (RUS #2)
Head-to-head:
Sharapova leads 3-2
Other than a second set letdown in her fourth round victory over Klara Zakopalova, Maria Sharapova's path to the semifinals could not have gone much smoother. She has dropped just 23 games, fewest of the final four, in improving her 2012 record on clay to 16-1.

As if the pressure of being two matches away from becoming the sixth player of the Open Era to complete the career Grand Slam weren't enough, a defeat of Petra Kvitova would ensure Sharapova's return to No.1 in the world for the first time since June 2008. Sharapova is 6-7 in her career in Grand Slam semifinals, including 0-2 at Roland Garros. She has split her two previous Grand Slam meetings with Kvitova, falling in last year's Wimbledon final but prevailing in the semifinals of January's Australian Open. She also was victorious in their only prior encounter on clay in the semifinals of Stuttgart in April.

Kvitova's upset of Sharapova in that Wimbledon final signaled her rise to superstardom. Yet to play a seed this fortnight or even a player in the Top 60 for that matter, she is coming off a narrow quarterfinal triumph over Yaroslava Shvedova in which she rallied from 4-2 down in the third. Another win over Sharapova would lift Kvitova to No.3 in the world, one spot below her career-high. She is 1-2 in her career in Grand Slam semifinals.

[21] Sara Errani (ITA #24) vs. [6] Samantha Stosur (AUS #6)
Head-to-head:
Stosur leads 5-0
Sara Errani was already having a dream season before she arrived at the French Open, highlighted by her first career Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open, titles in Acapulco, Barcelona and Budapest and a 16-match clay court winning streak. It has gotten even better this fortnight, having reached her first Grand Slam semifinal, having recorded her first Top 10 win over Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals and having assured herself of becoming the top-ranked Italian for the first time. On top of that, she is also into the doubles final alongside fellow Italian Roberta Vinci.

Of course, things get much tougher from here, as Errani has only won one set in five matches against semifinal foe and reigning US Open champion Samantha Stosur. And the Australian is the only player remaining yet to drop a set. Stosur is 2-1 in Grand Slam semifinals in her career, including 1-1 at the French Open - where she lost in the final four in 2009 and was runner-up in 2010. She is projected to return to the Top 5 regardless of her results the rest of the event.

Also on court... No.7 seeds and 2009 Australian Open champions Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi square off with Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Santiago González in the mixed doubles final.

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