Wide open as the 2017 Roland Garros women’s field was before the tournament started, it was hard to imagine two of the semifinalists would be Timea Bacsinszky and Jelena Ostapenko.
Just about the only thing these two share is a common birthday – June 8, the same day they’ll go toe-to-toe for a spot in the finals. Bacsinszky, who’ll turn 29, personifies such plot lines as the veteran late bloomer (as recently as 2013, she was enrolled in a hotel management program) with a playing style best appreciated by tennis connoisseurs. In the manner of such disrupters par excellence as Brad Gilbert, Fabrice Santoro, Agnieszka Radwanska and her fellow Swiss, Martina Hingis, Bacsinszky’s specialty is her ability to help her opponents become accomplices in their own demise. A long strand here, a short one there, sometimes with power, mostly with precision, Bacsinszky is akin to a tsetse fly, taking little bites that when performed properly will trigger systemic bleeding.
While Bacsinszky’s capacity for asking questions with her racquet makes her a rather curious player in both senses of the word, inquiry scarcely matters to Ostapenko. She is prosecutor of the first degree, armed with a briefcase full of evidence, prompt to dispense forceful arguments in the form of crushing groundstrokes off both sides. Ostapenko so far at this event has struck a whopping 195 winners – nearly 40 a match (Bacsinszky’s tally is 116). Early in her quarterfinal versus Caroline Wozniacki, Ostapenko was out of sorts. The moody Latvian committed 25 unforced errors on the way to losing the first set, 6-4. Rapidly, though, she turned it around, dropping just two games in each of the next two sets. “She goes for her shots,” said Wozniacki, who when it was over appeared more witness than participant. “Her shots are hard to read, so you don't really feel comfortable at any point in the match.”
These two have never played. But they have played doubles together, pairing up last year in Wuhan. Said Bacinszky on their partnership and shared birthday, “We actually played quite well together…I think it's pretty cool, though. I saw her in the gym just right after our matches today, and so we both said, like, mutually to each other, Well done. We hugged each other, because, I mean, she's a really nice girl. To me, she was all the time very nice. We practiced quite a few times together, too. I was happy for her that she was in the semifinal, as well. And that we are sharing the same birthday. But lucky her, she's way younger than I am (smiling).”
So who will get her birthday wish?
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