Wimbledon | Rybakina and Krejcikova to contest for Final spot

Elena Rybakina and Barbora Krejcikova will contest the semi-finals for a crack at the Wimbledon title on Saturday after both produced convincing performances to eliminate Elina Svitolina and Jelena Ostapenko from contention on Day 10 of The Championships.

It was a difficult day in the office today,. Today’s match went really, really quick… I had maybe one or two chances, maybe, to get back into the match, but they were just, yeah, so few of them, and I didn’t take them. She does not let you into the match. The game she broke me in the first set, she hit four great returns, even though I hit a first serve every time. Elina Svitolina

In front of The Queen, Rybakina showed off her grass court prowess with a 6-3 6-2 win over Svitolina, the No 21 seed from Ukraine, in a Centre Court quarter-final on Wednesday that lasted just 61 minutes to oust last year’s semi-finalist.

Rybakina, who won the title here in 2022, has now made the 3rd Grand Slam semi-final of her career, and taken a 3-2 lead in her head-to-head record with Svitolina.

“I think [the key was] staying really aggressive from the first shots,” Rybakina said, after her win. “Definitely I think my return improved. The serve is helping me, even though today maybe not as high percentage. But in important moments, I served it out.

“Of course [winning a second Wimbledon title] is something I want to achieve, I want to do again. It’s getting closer, but still there is two matches, tough opponents left. Again, it’s just match by match. For now it was working well, so I’m trying to continue with this mentality.”

The World No 4 is now the firm favourite to go all the way and lift the Venus Rosewater Dish for a second time.

Although born in Moscow, she switched citizenship in 2018 to represent Kazakhstan, but when she won the Wimbledon title 2 years ago, Russia’s Tennis Federation assumed credit, claiming her as one of their own.

Rybakina holds a 19-2 record in Wimbledon main-draw matches, having reached the Last 16 in her debut in 2021 before winning the title over Ons Jabeur the next year, who then avenged that loss in last year’s quarter-finals.

This year, she has made title runs in Brisbane, Abu Dhabi, and Stuttgart, and reached finals in Miami and Doha.

After an early exchange of breaks in Wednesday’s opening games, Rybakina was in dominant mood as she cracked open the first set with huge forehands to reach triple break point at 4-3, followed by a massive backhand return to force an error from Svitolina that earned the Kazakh a break to love, and a commanding 5-3 lead.

In the next game, Rybakina slammed an ace to convert her 2nd set point, and went on to produce more overwhelming play in the second, in which she won all 11 points when she got her first serve into play.

Rybakina wrapped up the match with 28 winners to just 15 unforced errors, an excellent ratio for her high-octane game, while this year’s ace leader on tour, went on to finish the match with 7 aces, and also converted both of her break points in the first set.

Svitolina was contained to just 8 winners and was only able to convert 1 of the 2 break points she mustered, while Rybakina took 4 of her 6 break point chances.

The Ukrainian kept her unforced error count down to 8, while the Kazakh sprayed 15, but with a 85% success rate off her first serve and winning 13 points on her second delivery, Rybakina dominated for the most part, and sent Svitolina scrambling, often futilely, from one sideline to the other.

“I played really well,” the under-stated Rybakina said. “On the baseline I was playing pretty well and felt the ball also good.

“Definitely I’m feeling pretty well on the court, especially last three matches, I think, I showed really good tennis. Sometimes serve can be off, but then the ground strokes are really well. I’m playing pretty confident.”

Elina Svitolina was blown away in straight sets by Elena Rybakina in front of The Queen in the Royal Box of Day 10 of The Championships

© Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

For Svitolina, who wore a black ribbon, it was over before she could get herself into the match.

“It was a difficult day in the office today,” Svitolina admitted. “Today’s match went really, really quick… I had maybe one or two chances, maybe, to get back into the match, but they were just, yeah, so few of them, and I didn’t take them.”

The Ukrainian didn’t play badly, and was simply blown away in straight sets, unable to contain Rybakina’s greater variety and intuition for stepping up to secure crucial breaks at the end of the first set, and beginning of the second.

“She does not let you into the match,” said Svitolina. “The game she broke me in the first set, she hit four great returns, even though I hit a first serve every time.”

As a Ukrainian enjoying the spoils of her talent, Svitolina has a guilt complex, fully aware of the terrors being inflicted on her country, and, at times, this proves too much of a burden for her to bear.

On Monday, the 29-year-old broke down in tears in her on-court interview after a Russian missile attack on a children’s hospital in Kyiv killed so many.

Asked what it was like to have the Queen in the Royal Box, given the royal family’s support for Ukraine, Svitolina said: “To be fair, I didn’t know [she was there]. Yes, it’s very sad for me because I couldn’t win this match today in front of her, but, of course, it’s such a big privilege to play Wimbledon in front of the Queen, even though I didn’t know.

“Yeah, the support that Ukraine been getting from United Kingdom has been really unbelievable. We couldn’t thank enough for all the people, as well, that let a lot of Ukrainians use their homes, share their homes with them.”

Svitolina also sent a message to the new Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues.

“I hope he’s aware with the help we got before, from the government before,” she added. “I hope this will continue because it’s really, really important for us. Every day is not getting easy.

“It’s not getting easier, it’s getting really tougher and tougher for us. Hopefully the support will continue. I feel like we got unbelievable support before, and I hope this will continue really because it’s super important for us.”

Barbora Krejcikova used her slice forehand to devastating effect against Jelena Ostapenko on No 1 Court on Wednesday at Wimbledon

© Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Rybakina will face Barbora Krejcikova in the semi-finals after the Czech 31st seed beat Jelena Ostapenko, 6-4 7-6(4) after an hour and 40 minutes on No 1 Court.

Long renowned as a doubles contender, Krejickova won the title here in 2022 with her compatriot Katerina Siniakova.

Her singles record at the All England Club, though, is less distinguished, and the furthest she has previously progressed is the 4th round, just the once, but now, after her straight sets win over Latvia’s Ostapenko, the 28-year-old is through to the semi-finals.

“How does it feel to play in the semi-final against a player of Rybakina’s prowess?” she was asked on court after her win. “I’ll tell you after the match,” she replied with a smile. “Then I will know.”

She then was off in a flash to play her doubles quarter-final on No 3 Court.

Krejcikova had lost her previous 3 matches against Ostapenko, all in straight sets, and 5 of their 7 prior encounters, and the 2017 Roland Garros champion was in formidable form this fortnight, dropping just 15 games en route to the Last 8.

The former World No 2, though, came out with an astute strategy, and a clinical serving performance, to blunt Ostapenko’s power.

Previously, Krejcikova had tried to go toe-to-toe with the Latvian from the baseline, but this time, she took the pace out of her game, slowing the tempo with slice, and forcing Ostapenko to generate pace herself.

She chipped and blocked the majority of her returns, and repeatedly deployed a floating forehand slice on defence to keep the point alive, a tactic that paid off in key moments, particularly when leading 5-3 in the second-set tiebreak, as Krejcikova used it to come out on top of a thrilling rally to reach her first match point.

Her slow-ball tactics also made her injections of pace all the more effective, coming out of left-field, and, on multiple occasions, having reset the point with the forehand slice, Krejcikova hammered a flat forehand crosscourt, catching Ostapenko out every time.

Jelena Ostapenko's power was blunted by Barbora Krejcikova slowing down the pace of their quarter-final match on Wednesday

© Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images

The Czech backed up this strategy with a formidable serving performance.

Ostapenko’s red-hot form to reach the quarters had been the story of the tournament thus far, and, in the first set, she did little wrong, tallying 7 winners to 6 unforced errors, but there was little she could do against the Krejcikova serve.

Although this dipped to 68% in the second, and Ostapenko took advantage to grab the first break for 3-1, and then battled through a 6-deuce game to hold for 4-1, seemingly turning momentum in her favour, but then the Latvian dropped 4 straight games, allowing Krejcikova back into the set with a pair of double-faults at 4-2.

Krejcikova wobbled, serving at 5-4, conceding the game on a double-fault, but by this point Ostapenko’s accuracy was too wild to profit as she tallied 29 unforced errors to 9 winners in the second set, and it was the Czech who gathered herself to play a more solid tiebreak.

In all, the Latvian 13th seed was left largely flat-footed and bemused, with her formidable grunt about the only thing working efficiently under the barrage of Krejcikova’s attack, and her normal accuracy offered up unforced errors, while her challenges over line calls were way out.

Ostapenko banished her own coach from the No 1 Court, dismissing him from her box during the second set, but her team all remained, which only increased her frustration, although he did eventually leave, and it seemed to work in her favour as she went up a level, but it was too little too late.

Two points from defeat, Ostapenko made a brave last stand and engineered 2 break opportunities, converting when Krejcikova blinked with a double-fault.

Buoyed by the reprieve, Ostapenko put down a strong service hold to put Krejcikova on the brink of a deciding set, but the Czech steadied and responded with a love hold of her own, emerging from an exchange of mini-breaks with a 4-2 lead at the change of ends in the breaker.

Out-rallying Ostapenko to earn 3 match points, Krejcikova converted the second to her immense delight, greeting her opponent with a warm hug at the net.

Up next for Krejcikova will be 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, whom she leads 2-0 in their head-to-head, with their last meeting coming in Ostrava back in 2022.

“As we all know, sometimes you wake up and something can happen,” said Rybakina, who has withdrawn from multiple tournaments this year due to illness or injury. “Hopefully nothing is going to happen tomorrow.”



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