Shriver: Expect a Serena-Clijsters Final
Expect a Serena-Clijsters rematch
By Pam Shriver
Special to ESPN.com
PARIS -- Serena Williams' blowout of Amelie Mauresmo might have been the biggest surprise of the quarterfinals. Most people felt with Mauresmo winning the last time they met and Williams struggling some against Ai Sugiyama, that the match would be challenging.
Former WTA Tour pro Pam Shriver is providing ESPN.com with in-depth analysis throughout the French Open. Shriver, a tennis analyst for ESPN, was ranked as high as No. 3 in singles play. She won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles.
But Williams had her full strut and full confidence on. Total belief and focus, that's what we've seen from her in the past 12 months in the majors. The purposeful walk. Eyes just staying right in the business of winning each point.
Based on that, Williams, despite losing two clay-court tournaments coming into this, is the clear favorite to win in Paris and take her fifth major title in a row.
The other player to have beaten Williams this year is her opponent in the semifinal, fourth-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium. She's a fit, feisty all-court dynamo with just enough weapons and clay-court savvy to win two in a row against Williams.
When they played at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston it was Williams' unforced errors that killed her and caused her to lose that match. Even though Henin-Hardenne played well it was much more Williams unraveling. I don't think that will happen here at the French Open, but it might be a three-set match.
Williams' opponents in these later rounds have seen her enough to know after the first two games finish which version of her is showing up. If Williams is on her game, there's a slight bit of panic and disorientation and asking "how can I do this?"
When Serena Williams is at her best, she's not easy to counter - you're more just trying to survive out there.
In the other semifinal, it's a big surprise to find the No. 76th-ranked player in Russian Nadia Petrova, who defeated Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati to get here. Capriati should realize, though, that she fell to a player whose quality has been similar to that of any top five player here. Petrova's ranking is so low because injuries have kept her from playing a full schedule. But she's recovered and playing very well.
Her two-handed backhand is beautiful, and against Capriati she was consistent and lethal. That's not easy to do against Capriati. Petrova also has a huge first serve - the second fastest to Venus in the tournament. To beat No. 2 seed Kim Clijsters, she's going to need all of that.
Clijsters, also a Belgian, has been a little erratic at times during the tournament. She had one miserable set, 0-6, against Maggie Maleeva in the fourth round. Other than that she's kept her unforced errors down in order to not drop more than two games in any set.
After faltering in the semifinals in Australia against Williams, Clijsters is very hungry to get through to her second major final.
In two years, she's gathered a lot of experience late in the majors compared to Petrova, so Clijsters should win. But if Petrova plays like she did against Capriati, Clijsters is going to have to play a high-quality match.