Men’s Semifinals and Women’s Final Set @PortugalOpen
Manuel Traquete, Tennis East Coast
The final Saturday of the Portugal Open will feature the women’s final and the men’s semifinals, all on center court. The day will open with Svetlana Kuznetsova facing the #1 of the tournament Carla Suarez Navarro in the final. Kuznetsova is far past her best days, but has played a very good week in Portugal, showing why she is a former Roland Garros champion (2009). Her game has proved too powerful and solid for the field so far on the slow Oeiras clay.
Still, it’d be perhaps fair to claim she will enter the final as the slight underdog – albeit one with good chances – against Carla Suarez Navarro, one of the best clay courters and a player who’s often praised and got the Portuguese crowd on her side due to her beautiful technique and game. The head to head is 3-1 for the Russian, but the only time they met on clay was back in 2008, when Suarez Navarro was still young and not established as a top player. In any case, it should be a great final to conclude another very good Portugal Open edition on the women’s side.
On the men’s side, the #1 seed Tomas Berdych survived a very good performance from Mayer to book a spot in the semifinals, even from a break down in the deciding set. His opponent will be Victor Hanescu, who beat the last Portuguese player standing in Gastão Elias. On paper, Berdych is the overwhelming favorite to reach the final since when both play at their usual level the Czech does pretty much everything better than Hanescu, with better technique, more power and more consistency. It’ll take a strong performance from Hanescu and a less than stellar one by Berdych for any other outcome other than Berdych playing the final on Sunday.
The Czech should be very eager to win his 10th ATP level title, as well as to gain some momentum ahead of Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros, tournaments where he aims to perform well and maybe even win.
The other semifinal might look weak on paper, but both Carlos Berlocq and Daniel Gimeno-Traver have been playing great tennis this week and haven’t even dropped a set on their way, although they’ve done it mostly on the outside courts in matches that were not broadcast on TV/stream. Yesterday, Berlocq secured his first ever win over a top 10 player in Milos Raonic, with one of his best ever performances, dominating Raonic from the baseline and doing a more than decent job returning his booming serve. Making an ATP final is not a chance that comes around every day for a player of Berlocq’s level/ranking, especially when the semifinal is against a player he has a positive H2H of 4-1 against, so it’s doubtful that he will be satisfied with simply recording his first ever top 10 scalp knowing that a chance (albeit small, with Berdych still in the draw) for a second ATP title in Bastaad last year is there. Gimeno-Traver also played amazingly yesterday, easily disposing of his countryman Marcel Granollers 6-1 6-2 on Centralito, firing winners of both wings at will, even off his usually unreliable backhand. If he can sustain that level, you have to imagine that there’s not much Berlocq can do despite the H2H. Despite his inconsistency, when in form, Gimeno-Traver has a very big serve and one of the best forehands on tour, capable of hitting winners from anywhere in the court. On paper, he also stands a better chance in a potential final with Berdych due to having a higher peak level of play.
All that said, this is a very unusual matchup for an ATP level semifinal. Berlocq has merely reached two finals in his career (won one), while Gimeno-Traver has never reached an ATP level final – both players are bound to be both excited and nervous before this unique opportunity, which might affect the quality of play.