Let me see now, we have Justine Henin (#l), Amelie Mauresmo, (#2), and Nadia Petrova (#4), all of whom made it to the semi-finals today in the Gaz Open from Paris. The fourth entrant was a bit of a surprise. Get used to seeing her though, Lucie Safarova is going to be making a dent in draws this year. Today, unseeded, she took out Henin in straight sets, 7-6, 6-4 (the divorce went through, now Henin needs no more hyphenation of her last name thank God).

I can’t ever remember a Lucie being on the WTA Tour before. Such a sweet name! And such a sweet game too, unless you happen to be her opponent. She has a big game, very reminiscent, in fact, of her boyfriend, Tomas Berdych. She even resembles him a bit: both are tall, pale and contained on court. Lucie can hit long deep shots off both sides, she has a big serve and pretty good court coverage for a big girl. Best of all, she has some nerves to go with her big game.

She’s a 20-year-old from the Czech Republic now ranked number 32 although she will be moving up into the top 20s. after reaching the final She has already won three titles and I would not bet against her tomorrow against Nadia Petrova who may be out of gas. Or gaz, if you prefer. Not bad for a player who came out of nowhere to upset Amelie Mauresmo in two surprisingly easy sets in the Round of 16 at the Australian Open last month. Safarova made it to the quarterfinals where Nicole Vaidisova ended her run in two sets.

In her post-match presser she gleaned what made her game so successful today against Justine Henin: “Every time I wasn’t in control of the point I lost it. I’d never played her and was surprised how much she was attacking at the beginning. Being aggressive was my only chance to push her from the first moment; it was the only way to win.”

As for the other women’s semi-final between Nadia Petrova and Amelie Mauresmo, well, let’s just say that somebody finally won it. Thank God because for a while there it looked like we couldn’t give the damn thing away. Women’s tennis can sometimes get ugly and today was one of those days. Nifty shots followed God-awful ones. Mauresmo would win a few points and then go south mentally. Petrova held her own serve rather brilliantly but scarcely made inroads into Mauresmo’s serve. Until the very last point of the match when Mauresmo served a great first serve up the T that looked a sure winner only to have Petrova guess correctly and pass her cleanly on match point. The score was 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(7). The Parisian crowd seemed to enjoy the match but it became too mind-numbingly erratic for me to watch.

What’s with the décor at this stadium? The color scheme seemed hatched right out of Bed Bath And Beyond. Pastel purple running into pastel pink shading into darker purple. I guess the French have that thing going on too: blue is for boys, pink is for girls. Well, we got lots of nauseating pink here today, you’d think you’d stumbled onto a girly slumber party. But I was OK once I put my sunglasses on.

The French cheered long and lustily for Amelie trying to encourage her but to no avail today. They truly love this woman. Once again I find myself scratching my head over those French. Could we ever see a lesbian cheered so heartily in this country at a sporting event? One wonders. Didn’t seem to work for Billie Jean or Martina, who were never embraced the way the French have accepted Amelie. Both lost a lot of endorsement money when news of their private lives came out. Maybe someone new has to come along and test those waters.

In the meantime, GO LUCIE!

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