Expect a Capriati-Suarez final
None of the top five seeds is in the semifinals of the French Open, so it makes picking anyone to win Thursday's matches a little bit of an uneasy process. It's very contagious when upsets happen; it starts to feed on itself. So any prognosticator feels a little wary.
However, the French crowd will be strongly behind former champion Jennifer Capriati, who is making a comeback on their turf. Some of them will even remember watching her break out at Roland Garros at age 14.
No. 6 Capriati and No. 5 Anastasia Myskina of Russia are neck and neck in the rankings. However, Capriati seems back on track and getting some big wins again. Her experience and temperament when the match gets close give her an advantage over Myskina, who sometimes gets emotional.
If Myskina can come out and play a mentally mature match, she certainly has the tools to win: speed and ground strokes as devastating as anyone on both sides. However, her serve sometimes turns out to be a weakness.
With that in mind, pick the proven horse and that's Capriati.
The other semifinal pits doubles specialist Paola Suarez, seeded 14th, against Russian Elena Dementieva, seeded ninth. In this situation, it's so easy to go with the favorite, which would be Dementieva.
Dementieva's serve looks like it's holding up, but it's still a fragile part of her game. Of concern for Suarez is how much doubles she's going to play; she's also in the women's doubles semifinals. Suarez played a three-set doubles match on Wednesday, but it was early enough it shouldn't become a problem in singles Thursday. Her doubles experience could help, too, as her aggressiveness at net could make this a close match.
A lot of times, a match like this comes down to the little things. Dementieva's only experience in a Grand Slam semifinal was at the U.S. Open four years ago. Suarez has never been in this position in singles, so Dementieva might feel she has an edge over Suarez in this situation. Plus, Suarez is used to having someone alongside her in those moments.
But you have to hand it to Suarez that she's 27 years old and now playing her best tennis. It's enjoyable and refreshing to see a player do that. Also impressive, is how very few unforced errors she's making.
For that reason, expect Suarez to win what will likely be a close, nerve-wracking match.
ESPN tennis analyst Pam Shriver won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles.