PARIS -- Reaching the quarterfinals of the French Open should help Venus Williams going forward to defending her title at Wimbledon. However, this was a huge opportunity for her, there's no question about it. Her chances were really good to get to the final because she had winnable matches ahead of her.
But Venus ran up against a tough customer in Nicole Vaidisova. They play similar games and Vaidisova didn't back away, she kept going for her shots, kept hitting bigger and bigger even after she would miss. Also, she did a good job of regrouping after not winning the first set.
I did not have high expectations for Vaidisova heading into the French Open to be honest. I didn't feel this was her best service, although she did win the warmup tournament in Strasbourg. But she's really impressed me -- especially against French qualifier Aravane Rezai in the third round. Vaidisova was up a set and had a convincing lead in the second set only to lose in a tiebreak. The crowd got on her case because she smacked her racket a couple of times and I thought, "Oh boy, here comes the immaturity." But she left the court, came back and won the third set 6-0. That was the first sign that she's maturing as a player.
Against Amelie Mauresmo she blew her off the court after losing the first set and did the same thing against Venus. That shows me where her confidence level is and how tough mentally she's becoming at just 17 years old. She believes that if even if she doesn't win [the first set] she can hang in with the top players and beat them. She doesn't look intimidated at all.
In the past, Vaidisova has had a tendency to get emotional and a little cranky and let it affect her -- like she did at the U.S. Open last year against Nadia Petrova. She's not doing that anymore. She's learning and growing up and has a great support system around her.
Her semifinal match against No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova is very winnable. I always thought Kuznetsova was going to be dangerous in this tournament -- the one to look out for -- because she's been playing well. Kuznetsova has more experience, although Venus had that today against Vaidisova and that didn't help her. We'll see how this 17-year-old handles the occasion and atmosphere of playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal. But she can definitely beat Kuznetsova, there's no question about it.
Mary Joe Fernandez won 7 singles and 17 doubles titles during her 15-year career on the WTA Tour. She is providing ESPN.com with analysis throughout the French Open.