Thursday, June 04, 2015

Safarova Powers Way into French Open Final

When most people think of Czech lady tennis players, there's no doubt that Petra Kvitova, the reigning and two-time Wimbledon champ, is the one. But always lurking to the side has been another lefthanded player, Lucie Safarova, a winsome, self-effacing, less physically imposing presence, now vaulted into the international tennis spotlight after earning a spot in the French Open final today, defeating Ana Ivanovic in the semifinal, 7-5, 7-5.

Lucie Safarova
Safarova, 28, is no slouch, of course, having earned more than $6 million in a pro career that began in 2002. Always a serious presence on the tour—and a personal charmer—Lefty Lucie has suffered her share of disappointments in big tourneys. This time around she created a career-making opportunity by defeating five-time major winner Maria Sharapova convincingly in the quarterfinal and now outlasting the cool, steely Serbian beauty Ivanovic in a spirited semifinal, which, once it was over, never seemed in doubt at all. Ivanovic, 27, was making a bid to return to the French Open final, an event she won in 2008.

Falling behind 2-5 in the first set, Safarova battled back to win 7-5, aided by her consistent service play, easy, gliding movement and knack for placing solidly accurate corner finishing shots that caught the veteran Ivanovic flatfooted.

Ana Ivanovic
Serving for the match in the second set at 5-4, Safarova struggled with her serve and failed to exploit Ivanovic's unforced errors, eventually losing the lengthy game after a series of deuce-advantage exchanges. But Safarova came right back, breaking Ivanovic's serve and again seizing control at 6-5, finally finishing off her higher-profile opponent with a potent, unreachable forehand corner shot. The highly appreciative packed crowd at Court Philippe Chatrier roared, and the likable young lady with her characteristic purple headband fell to the court in surprised relief, then bounded up to acknowledge her worthy opponent and accept the well-deserved applause of a growing legion of fans.

In the championship match, Safarova will play the winner of the other semifinal between Serena Williams and surprise Swiss challenger Timea Bacsinszky.

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