French Open: Timea Bacsinszky seals berth in semifinal after impressive victory over Kristina Mladenovic

Timea Bacsinszky unexpectedly progressed to her second French Open semifinal in three years upsetting home favourite Kristina Mladenovic in a match full of rain delays, prevailing in straight sets as she affirmed her status as a dark horse early on before the start of the tournament, and now possesses a great chance to progress to her first ever Grand Slam final, but she has to first get past the talented Jelena Ostapenko in the semifinals.

Bacsinszky steals the first set

The blustery wind conditions early on favored Bacsinszky as she was the more passive player on the court, and it forced Mladenovic to be uncomfortable on the court early on, blasting unforced errors off her racquet. This allowed the Swiss to take the lead in the opening game, having the perfect start to the match as she earned the first break of serve in the first game. With some strong backhands, Bacsinszky consolidated the break amidst the tough conditions after saving a break point in the process.

Timea Bacsinszky hits a forehand volley | Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty Images Europe
Timea Bacsinszky hits a forehand volley | Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty Images Europe

Mladenovic then came back from the brink and got herself on the scoreboard in the third game, fending off a break point with a volley winner and eventually saw her holding serve and lessening the deficit after 17 minutes of play. Conditions were really difficult for both players as the wind affected their shots and ball tosses, and also causing the clay to enter the players’ eyes, leading to much discomfort.

An unexpected double fault on Mladenovic’s first break point of the match from the former Top 10 player then saw the French return level all of a sudden, allowing her to gain some momentum. However, two poor drop shots from 40-0 up in the next game saw Mladenovic get pegged back to deuce, and eventually got broken straight back as Bacsinszky took advantage of the unforced errors to regain the lead.

Kristina Mladenovic will be disappointed with her performance today | Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty Images Europe
Kristina Mladenovic will be disappointed with her performance today | Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty Images Europe

After an exchange of service holds, the Swiss was twice away from a 5-3 lead after earning game points, but Mladenovic played some excellent offensive tennis to find a way back to get the break back once more, leveling the scores at 4-4. Mladenovic once again found herself in deep trouble on her serve as she faced three more break points, coming up with some impressive shot choice to fend off all of them and keeping her in the game.

However, she still produced some drop shots which Bacsinszky managed to hit winners off them, allowing her to save multiple game points in the marathon game. The physically-draining game finally ended after 12 minutes of play, with Mladenovic hitting a forehand long on break point, gifting Bacsinszky the golden opportunity to serve out the first set. This marathon eighth game of the set proved to be pivotal as Bacsinszky hit a perfect ace on set point after fending off a break point while serving out the set, sealing the first set 6-4 after a marathon 63 minutes of play.

Timea Bacsinszky hits a powerful backhand | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe
Timea Bacsinszky hits a powerful backhand | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe

Bacsinszky shows nerves of steel

Some deep returns from the Swiss then gave her the perfect start to the second set, jumping out to a 0-30 lead on Mladenovic’s serve in the opening game. However, Mladenovic managed to fight back and claim the encouraging service hold, producing some huge serves along the way. With her topspin shots troubling Mladenovic a lot on a clay court, Bacsinszky looked very comfortable as she earned a 0-40 lead on the return in her next return game. Just on her third break point in the game, rain interrupted play and the players were forced off the court, halting the momentum of the Swiss.

Thought to be just a short break, it turned out to be a lengthy three-hour halt as the rain finally stopped plaguing the tournament and the sun made its rare appearance today. Serving down a break point immediately, Mladenovic showed some nerves of steel as she hit a powerful forehand winner to come back from 0-40 down.

Timea Bacsinszky glances at the sky during a changeover, with the rain seemed to be incoming in the early stages of the match | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Timea Bacsinszky glances at the sky during a changeover, with the rain seemed to be incoming in the early stages of the match | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

The French then eventually carved the tough hold of service for a 2-1 lead in the second set, preventing Bacsinszky from taking the lead. The tight service hold proved to be a crucial turning point in the match when the momentum gained propelled Mladenovic forward on the scoreboard, making the first breakthrough in the second set as she took a 3-1 lead. However, with the help of some unforced errors, Bacsinszky unexpectedly broke straight back and returned level immediately, keeping the encounter as tight as possible in the second set.

A solid hold of serve then saw Bacsinszky regain some confidence, looking consistent and powerful on her backhands. Her confidence boosted her to get her third straight game, breaking Mladenovic’s strong serve to love and taking a set and a break lead as she looked poised for the victory. However, before Bacsinszky even had the chance to consolidate the break, rain once again came into play as it forced the players off the court once more, delaying the proceedings.

Kristina Mladenovic hits a backhand | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe
Kristina Mladenovic hits a backhand | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe

Nevertheless, the rain was only in place for 25 minutes as the players returned back on the court soon after, with Bacsinszky looking to close out the victory before yet another delay. The short break did not hinder the Swiss’ momentum as she dug herself out of a 0-30 hold to consolidate the break and place herself just one game away from the win.

Mladenovic then put in some powerful tennis to keep herself in the match for at least one more game, forcing Bacsinszky to serve the match out. At 30-30 while the Swiss attempts to serve out the match, Mladenovic threw in a wonderful drop shot winner to earn a break point, the golden opportunity to return level. However, that was not enough as Bacsinszky came up with some amazing offensive style of tennis as she eventually closed out the upset in front of the French crowd almost six hours after the match started.

Timea Bacsinszky would be pleased with her performance today | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe
Timea Bacsinszky would be pleased with her performance today | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe

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