It has not been pretty, but she’s made it to another major semi-finals. The pressure of trying to win her 20th major title has affected Williams’ game. She has a tendency to struggle early in tournaments; however, by the latter rounds, her game has rounded into form. That has not been the case this French Open. A combination of the moment and perhaps an incompletely healed injured right elbow have conspired to cause Williams to struggle mightily to find her game. Of the five matches played, she has had three consecutive three set matches. Granted two of her opponents were worthy adversaries; however, Williams did not show up for the first sets and should have lost to [CR40] Sloane Stephens (USA). Today was the first dominant performance by Williams and she will need to maintain that going forward if she hopes to win the title.
Her immediate obstacle comes in the form of [CR24] Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) in the semi-finals. Although Williams leads their head-to-head, Bacsinszky is a dangerous opponent. She has played Williams very close in their two encounters and she is coming into this match with a lot of conviction and confidence.
If Williams manages to get by Bacsinszky, she may face either [CR7] Ana Ivanovic (SRB) or [CR13] Lucie Safarova (CZE). Williams has only lost one match to Ivanovic in nine encounters; however, 33% of those matches have gone to three sets. Their only meeting on clay went to three sets. Therefore, Williams knows that she will have a battle on her hands if she faces Ivanovic in the final.
If however, she faces Safarova, Williams may be a tad more comfortable, but only slightly. Safarova has never defeated Williams but has pushed her to a third set three times in those eight encounters. Their two matches on clay may not have much relevance as Safarova is a much improved player. Safarova won a 6-1 set against Williams in their last encounter; thus, Williams will have to be alert and focused right from the start to avoid the upset.