French Open: Lucie Safarova sees off Ana Ivanovic in tense affair

For a place in Saturday's French Open final, on the women's side of the competition, Ana Ivanovic went head-to-head with Lucie Safarova with both players in arguably their best form for a few years to say the least.

Because of this, the encounter was hyped up beforehand to be one of the most competitive matches of the tournament on the women's side of the tournament, as the seventh seed (Ana) was up against 13th (Lucie).

Ivanovic was the quickest out of the blocks and raced into a four-one lead midway through the first set. Safarova was slow to start and was punished by Ana, who barely made any mistakes in the early going as she dominated proceedings. It was surprising that having beaten number two seed, Maria Sharapova, amongst others to get into just her second ever Grand Slam semi-final, Lucie would just let Ivanovic run riot over her, and the Czech international did well to get back into the swing of things with the crowd seemingly on her side - they'd rather much watch an exciting match as opposed to a boring one, with Ivanovic having dominated early on and zapping the energy out of the Roland Garros crowd.

Safarova did brilliantly in stages, especially to avoid two break points when she was virtually down and out for the set. Ivanovic served for the set, and yet, Lucie denied her from winning the set for another few minutes, as the Serbian was starting to lose her grip on the contest after a dominant display to start with. 

After forty minutes, it was five-all in the first set, and alarm bells were ringing for Ana, who had the chance to go five games to one up, only for her lead to be cut down gradually until proceedings were level once more. Two double-faults from Ivanovic was not an encouraging sight to see, and the 27-year-old started to lose her momentum as Safarova had two break points to defend. Ana saw a lacklustre return hit the net as the umpire called the scoreline at six-five to Lucie, and the momentum had well and truly switched. 

The epitomy of Ivanovic's rapid decline over the past ten minutes of play, was during a fast-paced rally, where she had hit an overhead volley which was returned into her path, having moved Safarova across the line - a free shot would have sealed the point in her favour, yet she was unable to lift the ball high enough as it flashed off the net. Safarova continued to improve as the minutes past, and soon, she found herself seven-five up in the first set, meaning she was leading and suddenly found herself in control. 

All eyes were on Ivanovic, to see if she could recover from a setback of that magnitude. She won her first game in six opportunities with a perfectly-executed forehand return, which swerved away from her opponent as she turned to pump her fist in relief, but the pressure was still on her. Two advantage points gifted her the perfect chance to double her lead to two games in the second set, but a forehand unforced error coupled with a serving ace from Safarova saw that opportunity slip from Ana's grasp.

Safarova continued to take control of the match with a smart choice selection, and forced Ivanovic to work hard for each and every point the Serbian won, as the match got more intriguing with Lucie three-one up in the second. She had a break point, to make it four-one, but a great piece of recovery and individual skill by Ana ensured she fought back and took the fifth game to make it three-two. 

Ana was thirty-love up in the sixth game, and somehow saw herself forty-thirty down within a minute or so, looking visibly frustrated as her chances were starting to slowly but surely fade away. After a few tense points both won and lost by both players in the same game, Safarova came out on top with a clean forehand winner, wrongfooting Ivanovic in the process. 

The atmosphere continued to intensity as the match went on, and with Safarova five-four up with two match points, she was made to work by a resillent Ana who was desperate not to lose without a good fight. A succession of unforced errors, along with a few powerful forehand winners and frustrating errors made the match almost unbearable to watch for the tennis neutral, and Safarova's grip loosened ever so slightly as she saw a return`stroke bounce out, making it five-all. 

Whenever Ivanovic had the chance to take advantage, she struggled to do so. Her shot selection was inconsistent and regularly saw herself hit the net, which was frustrating especially given her potential to fight back and swing the control of proceedings back into her favour. At six-five, Safarova was back in-front of the set, and with a match point to spare, Lucie sent her Ivanovic the wrong way with an emphatic forehand swing, sending the Roland Garros crowd into cheers of appreciation for what was an enthralling semi-final contest.

Safarova will face either Serena Williams or Timea Bacsinzky in Saturday's French Open final.

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