Jasmine Paolini reaches her second consecutive Grand Slam final by beating Donna Vekic at Wimbledon

LONDON — Jasmine Paolini reached her second consecutive Grand Slam final with a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10-8) victory over unseeded Donna Vekic at Wimbledon on Thursday in a rollicking match that lasted 2 hours, 51 minutes, making it the tournament’s longest women’s semifinal on record.

“This match,” said Paolini, a 28-year-old from Italy, “I will remember forever.”

As well will many who were present at Centre Court. Paolini kept coming back, coming back, coming back — after dropping the opening set, after being two games from defeat at 4-all in the second, after twice trailing by a break in the third at 3-1 and 4-3.

“It was,” she said, “a rollercoaster of emotions.”

Consider: Vekic, making her debut in a Slam semifinal, ended up claiming more points (118-111), delivering more winners (42-26) and breaking serve more often (4-3).

But No. 7-seeded Paolini never went away, eventually converting her third match point when Vekic sent a forehand wide. This showing on the grass courts of the All England Club follows Paolini’s runner-up finish to Iga Swiatek on the red clay at Roland Garros last month.

Paolini is the first woman to get to the title matches at the French Open and Wimbledon in the same season since Serena Williams in 2016.

“These last months have been crazy for me,” Paolini said with a laugh.

On Saturday, she will face No. 4 Elena Rybakina or No. 31 Barbora Krejcikova. They’ve both been a major champ already: Rybakina won Wimbledon in 2022; Krejcikova won the French Open in 2021.

The men’s semifinals Friday are Carlos Alcaraz vs. Daniil Medvedev, and Novak Djokovic vs. Lorenzo Musetti.

Paolini’s win was anything but easy for either woman. Vekic often seemed to be in distress, crying between points or while sitting in her changeover chair late in the third set. She iced her her right forearm between games or looked up at her guest box with a flushed face.

How surprising has this surge been by Paolini?

She never made it past the second round at any major tournament — losing in the first or second round at 16 appearances in a row — until she got to the fourth round at the Australian Open in January. And then there’s this: Paolini’s career record at Wimbledon was 0-3 until this fortnight. Indeed, she did not own a single tour-level win on grass anywhere until a tuneup event at Eastbourne last month.

Paolini finally got going late in the second set, earning her first break points of the afternoon and keeping things close. Her never-give-up attitude was apparent at 4-all, when she sprinted with her back to the net to put her racket on a lob, somehow getting it back over the net, and Vekic badly missed an overhead.

“She was hitting winners everywhere. I was a little bit struggling at the beginning,” Paolini said. “But I was just repeating to myself to fight (for) every ball.”

Paolini held there to lead 5-4, then broke for the set with a forehand winner, looked up at her guest box — where relatives were on their feet after nearly every point that went her way — and screamed, “Forza!” (“Let’s go!”)

Vekic, playing her fifth three-setter in six matches, headed to the locker room before the last set, recalibrated and came out strong. She broke in the opening game, helped by a forehand return winner on a second serve, followed by Paolini’s missed forehand on an 11-stroke exchange.

Soon Vekic led 3-1. After a trade of breaks, she was up 4-3.

But Paolini kept at it and now gets a second chance to play for her first Slam trophy.


AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

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