Saturday, July 20, 2024

Wimbledon women’s semi-finals preview: Elena Rybakina the gold standard – BBC Sport

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Video caption, Rybakina beats Svitolina in straight sets to reach semi-finals

  • Author, Joe Rindl
  • Role, BBC Sport journalist at Wimbledon

In an open women’s draw, one player has emerged as the obvious favourite to win Wimbledon.

Elena Rybakina, champion in 2022, is the highest-ranked player left in the competition and is playing some of her best tennis since she lifted the title.

Take, for example, her quarter-final win against Elina Svitolina. It took just 61 minutes, with Rybakina hitting an impressive 28 winners.

The Kazakh world number four will bid for a second Wimbledon final in three years when she faces 31st seed Barbora Krejcikova in the second semi-final on Centre Court on Thursday.

“This is something I want to achieve, I want to do again,” said Rybakina.

“Everybody wants to win. Everybody’s going to fight.”

Rybakina arrived at Wimbledon with limited grass-court preparation, having retired from her second-round match at the Berlin Open with abdominal pain and then withdrawing from Eastbourne.

But she has been in formidable form, dropping just one set – against Laura Siegemund in the second round – and extending her impressive SW19 record to 19 wins from 21 matches.

Her win percentage of 90.5 is bettered only by Ann Jones and Steffi Graf in the Wimbledon women’s singles in the Open era.

“I think that’s an amazing statistic,” Rybakina told BBC Sport.

“When I first played on grass I didn’t feel comfortable, but my coach told me ‘you were born for this, you just need to keep going’.'”

She has moved through the gears this year in a draw that saw rival Aryna Sabalenka withdraw before her first match and top two seeds Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff lose in the third and fourth rounds respectively.

So who – if anyone – can stop Rybakina this year?

Paolini, Krejcikova and Vekic bid for history

Video caption, Krejcikova beats Ostapenko to reach last four

Krejcikova will take heart from her 2-0 head-to-head record against Rybakina, coming through in three sets in meetings in 2021 and 2022.

However, the pair have yet to meet on a grass court.

The Czech began the season as the world number 10, but she has slipped down the rankings since after being hampered by illness and a back injury.

Krejcikova is the only other Grand Slam singles champion left in the draw, but she has not played in a major semi-final since her French Open triumph in 2021.

Rybakina will also know that Krejcikova has produced numerous shocks this fortnight, upsetting 11th seed Danielle Collins in the fourth round and in-form Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals.

Video caption, Watch the best shots as Paolini beats Navarro

In Thursday’s other semi-final, seventh seed Jasmine Paolini faces Donna Vekic in the second semi-final on Centre.

Italian Paolini is a late bloomer. She had never reached the second week of a Grand Slam until six weeks ago when she stormed to the French Open final.

Incredibly, she had not won a main draw match at Wimbledon until this summer’s tournament.

She beat world number 12 Madison Keys in the fourth round before taking just 58 minutes to dismantle 19th seed Emma Navarro in the quarter-finals.

Her opponent Vekic is also appearing in a first Wimbledon semi-final.

Just a month ago, the 28-year-old Croat was on the verge of quitting tennis, having struggled with a run of injuries.

Now she is on the best Grand Slam run of her career, having beaten qualifier Lulu Sun to reach a first major semi-final.

Brits meet in men’s doubles semi-final

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Briton Neal Skupski won the men’s doubles title last year alongside Wesley Koolhof

There is guaranteed to be a British man in the men’s doubles final, with Liverpool’s Neal Skupski and Colchester-born Henry Patten facing one another in the semi-finals on Thursday.

Skupski won last year’s tournament alongside Dutchman Wesley Koolhof but is now partnering New Zealander Michael Venus.

Patten is paired with Finland’s Harri Heliovaara, with the British duo set to meet in the second match on Court One.

In the other semi-final, top seeds Marcel Granollers of Argentina and Spain’s Horacio Zeballos face Australian duo Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson.

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