Jasmine Paolini edges Vekic in marathon match to reach first Wimbledon final

Seventh-seeded Jasmine Paolini made history by becoming the first Italian woman to secure a place in the Wimbledon final, overcoming Croatian Donna Vekic 2-6 6-4 7-6(8) on Wednesday. This match marked the longest women’s semi-final ever at the All England Club.

Spectators on Centre Court witnessed a thrilling contest as both athletes pushed their limits in pursuit of a spot in the final, where they will face either Barbora Krejcikova or 2022 champion Elena Rybakina.

Both players, aged 28, were venturing into new territory; Vekic was competing in her first major semi-final, while Paolini had not won a single match on grass prior to this year.

Vekic dominated the initial set with ease, breaking Paolini’s serve in the fifth and seventh games. Her combination of powerful groundstrokes and delicate dropshots proved too challenging for Paolini under the bright sun.

Encouraged by a fervent group of Italian supporters, Paolini adopted a more assertive approach in the second set, frequently moving towards the net and putting Vekic on the defensive. Her determination and vigour eventually resulted in a crucial break, allowing her to secure the set.

In the final set, both players experienced multiple breaks as unforced errors mounted, with Vekic in particular showing signs of fatigue and emotional strain. She was visibly upset after saving Paolini’s initial match point.

A successful challenge that overturned a line call enabled Paolini to hold serve in an almost 10-minute game, leaving Vekic in tears during the changeover. Despite Vekic’s efforts to save another match point and maintain her serve to force a tiebreak, she seemed especially weary, committing a total of 57 unforced errors and expressing her frustrations to her coach, Pam Shriver, in the players’ box.

Paolini, on the other hand, remained as energised as she had been at the outset. She triumphed in the two hour, 51-minute marathon, during which both athletes covered over 3.5 kilometres, to advance to her second consecutive Grand Slam final.

“The past few months have been utterly chaotic for me. I am striving to concentrate on my performance on the court, and my passion for tennis remains unwavering. Being here is incredible, and it feels like a dream,” Paolini, who advanced to the semi-finals in Eastbourne last month, expressed on the court.

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“I believe it was a very intense match, and I aimed to give my best effort. Now it’s time for recovery, and I think I need an ice bath as my legs are feeling somewhat fatigued.”

The previous record for the longest women’s semi-final at Wimbledon was set in 2009, lasting two hours and 50 minutes between Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva.

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