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Amanda Anisimova of the U.S. celebrates winning her quarterfinal match of the French Open tennis tournament against Romania’s Simona Halep in two sets, 6-2, 6-4, at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris on June 6, 2019.
Amanda Anisimova of the U.S. celebrates winning her quarterfinal match of the French Open tennis tournament against Romania’s Simona Halep in two sets, 6-2, 6-4, at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris on June 6, 2019.|Michel Euler | Associated Press
Tennis

Tennis Friday: Abrams picks the French Open women’s semis with Barty v Anisimova and Konta v Vondrousova

Play begins at Roland Garros at 5 am EDT.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

FRENCH OPEN
Stade Roland Garros
Paris, France
Friday, June 5, 2019
Women’s Semifinals

Ash Barty over Amanda Anisimova
In Thursday’s quarterfinals, Romania’s famed Nadia Comenici and Ion Tiriac sat in the stands with Virginia Ruzicci watching their countrywoman and charge, Simona Halep, as she prepared to take on 17-year-old American teenager Amanda Anisimova. They fully expected to watch the world No. 3 pick apart her young opponent and charge into the semifinals looking to defend her French Open title. What they saw instead, was the emergence of a young superstar in the world of women’s tennis. As competitive as women’s tennis has become since American champion Serena Williams relinquished her crown and is no longer near the dominant player that she once was, the sport needs bright, new faces, because, if you watch the stands at any of the big coed tournaments, there are far too many empty seats at even the best of the women’s matches. That should change after yesterday’s meeting between the present and the future of women’s tennis. Anisimova, a Freehold, New Jersey, native, has become that standard by which all other American players will compare themselves. She’s young, she’s pretty, she’s charming, she’s charismatic, and she’s a terrific athlete who happens to be a damn good tennis player. The problem for the rest of the competitors is that, as good as Amanda is, she’s got so much to improve on that if she does, she’ll climb the mountain quickly and become the world’s best women’s tennis player very soon. The ease with which Anisimova dispatched Halep was both surprising and remarkably straightforward. The teenager didn’t allow Halep to even get into the match, hitting winners off of both wings, particularly her running forehand, serving solidly, and even taking command with an occasional drop shot, to keep Halep off balance and constantly on the defensive. The American finished the two set match with 25 winners, more that six full games worth, but I’m sure was able to save some for the semis.

Not to be outdone, Ashleigh Barty, the delightful 23-year-old from Down Under, outclassed American Madison Keys. I’m starting to feel rather blue for Keys, a new resident of Lake Nona, Florida, as it is obvious that her losing is not a physical problem, but an intellectual and emotional one. As athletic as Barty has shown to be, Keys is every bit as athletically gifted. The difference is that Barty’s matches are as much displays of strategy and shot selection, as they are displays of pure shot production. Keys’ matches, meanwhile, are examples of mental lapses affecting both her match strategy and shot making. Without a new coach or a new head, Keys’s career will be relegated to underperformance and wasted potential. Keys has the ability to be a Grand Slam champion. Instead, she’s outside looking in at the semis here in Paris, where four players are playing whom she should be able to beat.

Johanna Konta over Marketa Vondrousova
This Women’s semifinal is another interesting and exciting matchup between two players who will be new to most tennis followers. Johanna Konta, the 5’11” Brit, by way of Australia, was, in fact, ranked No. 4 in the world back in July of 2017 after winning the Miami Open and getting to the semis of Wimbledon. But she fell on hard times after that. She has played really well this Spring and has a realistic chance to enter the Top 15 again soon. Although currently ranked No. 42, she ran all the way to the finals in Morocco and Rome, and now with her run to the semis (at least) here in Paris, Konta is playing her best tennis in two years. Marketa Vondrousova, 19, is a newcomer to the Tour who has been beating her elders with a degree of regularity this year, although not to the degree of Konta. This is by far Vondrousova’s best run yet, and although it is a great achievement, I think that Konta will end it for her. Playing in the semis of a Grand Slam event is a monumental achievement for a tennis player, and I think the nerves that undoubtedly will arise will be tough to shake. Because of Konta’s experience, I expect her to not be affected as much as the teenager, and I think that could make the difference between the two. If neither are affected, I think Konta is playing better tennis right now, even though the youngster has a higher ranking at No. 38. I also expect Konta to be a contender at Wimbledon.