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Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

Determined Halep can dance her way to Roland Garros success

Ostapenko could meet her in the final

Simona Halep is in red-hot form on clay
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Women's semi-finals
ITV4 & Eurosport, from 2pm Thursday

Halep v Pliskova
With three-time French Open champion Serena Williams absent and defending champion Garbine Muguruza failing to match last season’s heroics, the door was left wide open for Roland Garros to crown a new slow-court queen.

Simona Halep arrived in Paris a red-hot favourite, with many rivals grasping for their best form, and her recent clay title in Madrid sent out a message that the world number four may be ready to deliver the biggest success of her career.

The Romanian snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in yesterday’s gruelling quarter-final against Elina Svitolina, having been a set and 5-1 down, and her new sense of belief could see her down 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova.

Halep’s preparation for Roland Garros was far from ideal. The third seed reportedly tore ankle ligaments in her defeat to Svitolina in the Italian Open final but she was determined to recover in time, knowing in such a wide-open renewal this could be her best chance at clinching her first Grand Slam title.

Pliskova climbed the rankings last year, reaching her first Grand Slam final in New York, and her powerful first serve makes her a dangerous proposition. However, it’s no secret that the Czech is not at her best on clay and until this year she had never been past the second round at Roland Garros in six previous attempts.

The world number three overcame home hope Caroline Garcia in her last eight encounter but the Frenchwoman has been her only seeded victim and Halep rates a completely different test.

Pliskova limped past Ekaterina Alexandrova in the second round before recovering from a set down to defeat qualifier Veronica Cepede Royg in the last 16 and a reproduction of those efforts would be punished by Halep, who dominates their personal series 4-1.

The Romanian is strongly fancied to see off Pliskova before dancing her way to her first Grand Slam title and punters should take the 8-11 about her lifting the trophy.

S Halep to win French Open
2pts 8-11 Betfred, Boylesports

Ostapenko v Bacsinszky
Jelena Ostapenko and the talented Timea Bacsinszky clash on their shared birthday with a place in Saturday’s final at stake and the up-and-coming Latvian can hold her nerve and wave goodbye to her teenage years by producing the biggest win of her career.

Rising star Ostapenko turns 20 today, while Swiss ace Bacsinszky hits 28 and it’s the youngster who is expected to make her birthday one to remember.

Both performers have gone under the radar in their bid to reign supreme at Roland Garros - Ostapenko was available at 150-1 pre-tournament, while Bacsinszky was rated a 50-1 chance - but they have peaked at the perfect time and produced performances from the top drawer.

Ostapenko’s aggressive playing style is well suited to the red courts of Paris and her quarter-final victory over former world number one Caroline Wozniacki indicates the standard at which she is operating.

The Latvian has built her growing reputation on the slower surface. She was a beaten finalist in April’s Charleston Open before reaching the last four in Prague and there’s little doubt she is going to be contending for Grand Slam titles in years to come.

Ostapenko came from a set down to upset Wozniacki, as was the case when she outclassed 2010 finalist Sam Stosur in the last 16, so the Latvian may have a significant edge if the match were to go the distance.

Bacsinszky impressed in dismissing home favourite Kristina Mladenovic in straight sets on Tuesday but she’s yet to reach a Grand Slam final in her 10-year career and tends to fall short on the biggest stage.

It’s possible that the occasion may get to Ostapenko but she is blessed with more raw talent than her Swiss opponent and if able to dictate points from the back of the court, could produce a historic win.

J Ostapenko
1pt 5-4 general

It’s no secret that the Czech is not at her best on clay and until this year she had never been past the second round at Roland Garros
E.W. Terms
Sky bet