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Jasmine Paolini, Barbora Krejcikova to face off in Wimbledon final

No. 7 seed Jasmine Paolini of Italy advanced to her second consecutive Grand Slam final, defeating Donna Vekic of Croatia 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (8) in the first Wimbledon semifinal on Thursday.

In her first Wimbledon final on Saturday, Paolini will take on No. 31 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, who upset No. 4 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in Thursday’s other semifinal to also reach her first Wimbledon final.

For Paolini and Vekic, it was an emotional two-hour, 51-minute match that turned into the longest semifinal in the history of women’s singles at Wimbledon and long will be remembered as one of the best.

Either woman could have won, but Paolini outlasted an emotional Vekic in a roller-coaster match and tiebreaker.

Paolini, 28, reached the Wimbledon final after she lost to top seed Iga Swiatek in straight sets in the final at the French Open on June 8.

She becomes the first woman since Serena Williams in 2016 to reach the finals of both the French Open and Wimbledon in the same season.

In London on Thursday, Vekic sailed through the first set, striking three aces and winning points on 91 percent (10 of 11) of her first serves and hitting 12 winners compared to five for Paolini.

And in the second set, the players traded games until the final one, when Paolini broke Vekic’s serve for the first time in the match.

As the match drew longer, the emotions and the nerves seemed to take over. Both players broke serve twice in the third set, and it was two chances that Paolini couldn’t covert that led to the extended 10-point tiebreaker.

With Vekic serving down 4-5, Paolini had match point, but the Croatian came back to even the game and then capture the next two points to win and tie the match at 5-5.

As the tension grew, Vekic became more emotional, fighting back tears on the court and at her seat during the changeover.

But she regained her composure to fight off another match point, in the 12th game of the set, by hitting a winner at the second deuce to force the tiebreaker, in which the lead went back-and-forth until the end.

Paolini recognized the match as one that will be at the top of her memories forever.

“She played unbelievable,” Paolini said of Vekic, who was playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal. “I think she was hitting winners everywhere and, yeah, I was a little bit struggling at the beginning, but I was just repeating to myself to fight to every ball and to try to improve a little bit on the court because I was serving really bad. I’m so happy with this win. … I will remember forever, I think.”

She said she is trying to live in “the present” amid what she called a “crazy” past month.

“I’m trying just to focus on what I have to do on court, just enjoying what I’m doing because I love playing tennis,” she said. “It’s amazing to be here. … It’s a dream, you know.”

As for Krejcikova, she saved six of nine break points and converted four of six break points en route to defeating Svitolina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion, in a two-hour, seven-minute match.

“It’s unbelievable,” the 28-year-old Czech said. “A lot of joy, a lot of emotions, a lot of relief. I’m super proud of my game.

“I was (down) 0-4 (in the first set), I was happy to win my first game, I was trying to fight for every ball and in the second set I was getting my momentum. When I broke her I was in the zone and I didn’t want to leave the zone.”

Ryabinka got the better of Krejcikova in aces (8-4) and winners (38-25) but committed 11 more unforced errors (37-26).

Leading 3-2 in the second set, Krejcikova broke Ryabinka to go up 4-2 and eventually even the match on her sixth set point.

With the third set tied 3-3, Krejcikova again broke her opponent to take the lead for good.

“I never thought I’d be playing for the Wimbledon title,” said Krejcikova, who is in her second Grand Slam final after winning the French Open in 2021. “Years ago I was working with Jana Novotna, she won in 1998, she was telling me about her journeys here.

“I was so far (away) when we had this talk and now I’m here and I’m in the final. Wow. She’s my inspiration, I have so many beautiful memories. I’m fighting for every ball as that’s what she’d want me to do.”

–Field Level Media

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