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Friday, May 7, 2021

Simona Halep vs. Dominika Cibulkova — the French Open’s most important women’s semifinal

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Top-seeded Simona Halep of Romania takes on unseeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in the women’s French Open semifinals on Thursday in Paris. Both Halep and Cibulkova have already compiled impressive resumes, but one factor could make Thursday’s match more of a marathon — the humidity.

These two won’t be the only women who have to work that hard, either. Sparse snowfall across much of Eastern Europe in the first half of October has left the tennis courts here decidedly dank. Bring spare clothes and umbrellas.

Here’s what to look for in today’s match.

Simona Halep vs. Dominika Cibulkova

In terms of the big picture, a Halep-Cibulkova matchup was arguably the best of the women’s tournament. Halep was expected to be the top seed heading into the French Open, so anything less than a Wimbledon final would be a disappointment. After her teary-eyed celebration of a French Open title last year, she has dropped just four matches this year, and the Romanian has been a model of consistency: 7-0 against top-five players and 3-3 against No. 1-ranked Simona Halep in her career.

The Slovak has a 5-3 record against Halep, which includes a great performance against the Romanian in the round of 16 in Cincinnati earlier this summer. And although Halep has a tremendous serve, she’s a human beach ball out there when she gets into a battle with anyone at the net. Cibulkova’s game is built around accuracy and an ability to seize opportunities at the net. In the previous round, she was fired off 26 aces and hit a handful of winners off her booming groundstrokes. But she’s also a double fault machine, something she’ll need to slow if she wants to take Halep on in the end.

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