French Open: Simona Halep survives to reach a second Roland Garros final

The second women's singles semifinal on Day 12 of the French Open saw third seed Simona Halep take on the second seed Karolina Pliskova. The Czech number one had the chance to usurp Angelique Kerber as the new world number one but she had to defeat Halep in order to so. However, the former world number two survived an almighty scare in her quarterfinal match with fifth seed Elina Svitolina. The Romanian was a set, and 1-5 down, and saved a match point in the process to advance to the semifinals. Halep was clinical in her semifinal encounter with Pliskova, overcoming the big-serving Czech, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in two hours to reach a second French Open final in four years.

Halep shines to take the opening set

Both players held serve in their opening games of the match in the second semifinal on Court Philippe Chatrier. The two top three seeded players had the scoreboard moving in the right direction, however, Pliskova was under pressure in her next game. She committed two double faults, and the second one was crucial as Halep gained her first break point at 15-40. The Romanian exploited Pliskova's poor movement on clay, and a backhand down the line forced an error from the second seed.

Moreover, Pliskova was looking to break back immediately as she was aggressive, coming to the net. Nonetheless, Halep saved both break points that she faced with the Czech trying to find a forehand winner down the line, and she saved the second with a forehand winner. Halep did well to hold onto her serve with a forehand winner with Pliskova rooted to the other side of the court.

Last year's US Open runner-up was struggling to get a stranglehold on this match. The third seed continued to retrieve every ball that was coming to her, forcing Pliskova to commit more errors. The Czech had to face another break point at 30-40 but she dug herself out of a hole with Halep committing unforced errors to fall 3-2 behind.

The Romanian continued to thrive in the opening set with a comfortable service game to lead 4-2. However, the same could not be said for the 25-year-old Czech. She was trying to finish off points quickly, in order, not to get caught up in long rallies with Halep. Pliskova was threatened at 15-30 down but she eventually got a game point. Furthermore, she was struggling to come out on top in lengthy rallies. Nonetheless, Pliskova dug deep as she held serve as she rarely won a point in a lengthy rally with a scorching backhand winner down the line, followed by an ace down the T.

The third seed bossed the rallies and exploited Pliskova's weaknessess (Photo by Adam Pretty / Getty)
The third seed bossed the rallies and exploited Pliskova's weaknesses (Photo by Adam Pretty / Getty)

The 2014 French Open runner-up held serve to lead 5-3 with ease, and the pressure was moved onto Pliskova, who had to serve to stay in the opening set. Halep's retrievable skills were out of this world, and she created her first set point at 30-40. Pliskova stepped into the court, and she saved it with a forehand winner down the line. The Czech had to stave off a second set point with a forehand winner in the corner of the court, out of reach for Halep. Fortunately for Pliskova, she found her serve and forehand to force errors from the third seed but trailed 4-5.

The Romanian had a helping hand from the second seed, who continued to spray unforced errors. Pliskova fended off the third set point, she faced with a backhand winner down the line. However, she was unable to stave off a fourth which Halep claiming the first set, 6-4 in 43 minutes. 

Pliskova improves to win the second set

Just like the opening set, Pliskova served first in the second set, and she held serve with some problems but didn't face a break point. Halep followed suit in her first service game of the second set to level the match evenly poised at 1-1.

The second seed rarely outmanoeuvred the third seed but she did to win the first point with a backhand winner down the line. Pliskova nudged ahead in the scoreboard again with an ace out wide to lead 2-1. The Czech knew that she had to go for her shots as the exit door would be in sight. Despite, committing unforced errors, Pliskova was showing signs, that she was coming back into this semifinal match.

For the first time in the match, the lanky Czech had a comfortable service hold to love, and she was full of confidence by winning seven consecutive points to get a 0-40 lead on Halep's serve. Pliskova bossed the rally, and she was unable to claim the first set point chance, nevertheless, she took the second one to lead 4-2.

It looked likely, that Halep would win the match in straight sets as she held two break points at 15-40 with Pliskova feeling the pressure. Nonetheless, the Czech always hides her emotions, and the emotionless, Pliskova fended off both break points with a trademark serve out wide, and the forehand winner. The Romanian created a third break point which was snuffed out. Halep committed two more unforced errors, and Pliskova roared, when she held serve, as she knew, how crucial that point was and led 5-2.

Pliskova did well to reach the semifinals, and she will be a threat at Wimbledon and the US Open again (Photo by Adam Pretty / Getty)
Pliskova did well to reach the semifinals, and she will be a threat at Wimbledon and the US Open again (Photo by Adam Pretty / Getty)

It was a free swing for the Czech to break Halep's serve for the set. At 30-15, Pliskova won the next point with a thunderous return winner down the line. The Czech's intent to win the set was clear, as she sent down another thunderous backhand in Halep's direction which forced Halep to commit an error. The Romanian saved it with a backhand down the line, forcing the error from last year's US Open finalist. Halep held onto her serve, and the pressure was back on Pliskova.

The second seed kept her hopes of becoming the world number one alive as she won the set with a forehand winner, which was firing in this second set.

Halep restores order to advance to a second French Open final

For the first time in the match, Halep had the advantage of serving first in the match. She held serve comfortably to lead 1-0. However, Pliskova's serve was under scrutiny in the next game but she saved a break point, and the Czech held onto the serve with an ace.

Once again, the Romanian was untroubled on serve but Pliskova had more struggles on her serve. She committed two tired looking unforced errors in the net to fall at 0-30. Furthermore, she would claim the next two points with a forehand winner. Nevertheless, the inevitable occurred with Halep getting the crucial break in the final set with an outstanding forehand crosscourt winner. Pliskova was hitting forehands hard but the third seed's movement on clay is the best in women's tennis right now.

Pliskova had two chances to break back at 15-40 to get herself involved once more in the final set. However, she committed a forehand unforced error on the first break point. Halep's backhand down the line forced the error from Pliskova to stave off the second set point. The Romanian held serve to extend her lead to a comfortable 4-1.

Last year's US Open runner-up was checking out of Paris as she faced another break point. Nonetheless, Pliskova saved it in typical fashion with an ace out wide. She eventually held serve with a drive volley scraping the baseline, and her favoured serve out wide, and forehand winner combination.

Pliskova was trailing 2-4 but she knew that she had nothing to lose, and went for her shots in this game. The Czech played one of her best points of the match with a volley winner at the net, with some help of the net cord. She created her first break point with a good return of serve, followed by a strong forehand down the line, and a forehand winner to finish off the point. She took the break point with a forehand winner down the line, to keep things interesting in the final set.

The duo shook hands at the net with Halep denying Pliskova the chance to reach a second Slam final (Photo by Adam Pretty / Getty)
The duo shook hands at the net with Halep denying Pliskova the chance to reach a second Slam final (Photo by Adam Pretty / Getty)

Unfortunately for Pliskova, she was unable to level proceedings in the final set as she faced two break points once more. She saved the first with a forehand down the line, forcing the error from Halep but she was unable to save the second, despite serving down the middle and committing a wild unforced error out wide.

The third seed remained calm, and she served for the match with ease, sealing her spot in a second French Open final with a good serve down the middle, forcing the error from the Czech number one. Halep will play Jelena Ostapenko in Saturday's singles final after the 20-year-old defeated Timea Bacsinszky in three sets.