Mirra Andreeva defeats No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka to reach the French Open semifinals at age 17

Russia’s Mirra Andreeva plays a forehand return to Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka during their women’s singles quarter final match on Court Philippe-Chatrier on day eleven of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on Jun. 5, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 05 June 2024
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Mirra Andreeva defeats No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka to reach the French Open semifinals at age 17

  • “I tried to play brave,” the 38th-ranked Andreeva said
  • She is also the youngest player to eliminate someone ranked No. 1 or 2 at Roland Garros

PARIS: Mirra Andreeva, an unseeded 17-year-old from Russia, surprised No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 at the French Open on Wednesday to become the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist since Martina Hingis at age 16 in 1997.
“I tried to play brave,” the 38th-ranked Andreeva said. “And I managed to win.”
She is also the youngest player to eliminate someone ranked No. 1 or 2 at Roland Garros since Monica Seles — like Hingis, now a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame — was 16 when she beat Steffi Graf in the 1990 final.
Andreeva has yet to win a tour-level title of any sort and is competing in only her fifth Slam tournament.
Sabalenka, meanwhile, is a two-time champion at the Australian Open, including in January, and had won the first 23 Grand Slam sets she played in 2024 until dropping two in a row against Andreeva. Sabalenka was visited multiple times by a trainer and doctor on Wednesday and often clutched at her midsection, although it was not clear what was wrong.
When she broke to end the match with a beautiful lob that Sabalenka didn’t even move to try to get to, Andreeva broke into a wild smile, then covered her face with both hands.
“Honestly, I was really nervous before the match. I knew that she would have an advantage, especially with the crowd,” said Andreeva, whose older sister, 19-year-old Erika, lost to Sabalenka in the first round last week. “But I actually was a little surprised, because you guys also cheered for me.”
On Thursday, Andreeva will face another newcomer to this stage: 12th-seeded Jasmine Paolini, a 28-year-old from Italy, who reached her first major semifinal with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 victory over No. 4 seed Elena Rybakina, the Wimbledon champion two years ago.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Paolini, who has won two titles in her career, neither on clay courts.
The other matchup Thursday involves two players who have far more experience and far greater accomplishments: No. 1 Iga Swiatek against No. 3 Coco Gauff. Swiatek is seeking her fifth Grand Slam title and fourth in Paris; Gauff won the US Open last September and was the runner-up to Swiatek at Roland Garros in 2022. They both won quarterfinals on Tuesday.
Whoever wins that semifinal is likely to be a big favorite in the final against Andreeva or Paolini.
Had Sabalenka and Rybakina won Wednesday, this would have been only the second time in the professional era, which began in 1968, that the women seeded 1-4 all advanced to the semifinals. The other was way back in 1992, when Seles, Graf, Gabriela Sabatini and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario did it.
But Paolini and Andreeva put a stop to that.
Andreeva already had shown plenty of promise, making her way to the fourth round at Wimbledon last year and the Australian Open this year. She is precocious on the court and off, and is still refining her game, currently with the help of coach Conchita Martinez, the 1994 Wimbledon champion.
“I kind of see the game. I just play wherever I want. I don’t even have a plan,” Andreeva said with a chuckle. “So when I see an open space on the court, I try to play there. Or if I think that maybe she will run there, I try to play behind her back or something like that. Me and my coach, we had a plan today, but again I didn’t remember anything during the match. I just try to feel as I play and that’s it.”
Paolini exited in the first or second round in each of her first 16 Grand Slam appearances before making it to the fourth round of the Australian Open.
With Jannik Sinner into the men’s semifinals, it is the first time an Italian woman and Italian man both have appeared in the final four at the same Grand Slam tournament in the same year. It’s quite a moment for their country in tennis: On Monday, Sinner will become the first man to be No. 1 in the ATP rankings.
Paolini finished with 22 unforced errors, fewer than half of Rybakina’s 48. And Paolini accumulated seven breaks against the big-serving Rybakina, who hit 10 aces.
Paolini dominated the opening set, making just one unforced error while Rybakina made 16. In the second set, after getting within a point of a 5-3 lead, Paolini lost a bit of nerve, allowing Rybakina to force a third.
The final set went back-and-forth, until Paolini broke one last time for a 5-4 edge, then served out the victory and let out a yell when Rybakina sent a backhand long.
“I (got) a little bit too emotional in the second set,” Paolini said. “But then I said to myself: ‘OK. It’s good. She’s a great champion so it can happen. Just fight. Try to keep it there. Try to hit every ball.’ And, yeah, it worked.”


Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown

Updated 14 July 2024
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Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown

  • Alcaraz equals the Open Era record for most Grand Slams won at the age 21 or under

LONDON: Carlos Alcaraz overpowered seven-time champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets to retain his Wimbledon title on Sunday in a brutal statement that the new era of men’s tennis has arrived.
The Spanish third seed produced a performance combining awesome power with delicate touch to win 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4), collecting the fourth Grand Slam of his young career.
Alcaraz equals the Open Era record for most Grand Slams won at the age 21 or under, joining Boris Becker, Bjorn Borg and Mats Wilander.
And he is just the sixth man to win the French Open and Wimbledon back to back.
Djokovic, 37, who had knee surgery just weeks ago, was aiming to win a 25th Grand Slam — which would have been a record in the men’s and women’s game.
But he had no answers in the Center Court sunshine as the electric Alcaraz pounded him from the back of the court and treated the crowd to an array of his trademark drop shots.
“Honestly, it is a dream for me winning this trophy,” said the Spaniard. “I did an interview when I was 11 and I said my dream is to win Wimbledon.
“For me this is the most beautiful tournament, the most beautiful court and the most beautiful trophy.”
Alcaraz paid tribute to his beaten opponent, who only found his range in the third set.
“Djokovic is an unbelievable fighter, I knew he was going to have his chances,” said Alcaraz who had needed five sets to defeat the Serb in the 2023 final.
“It was difficult but I tried to stay calm going into the tie-break and tried to play my best tennis. I was glad at the end I could find the solutions.”
Alcaraz seized the initiative in a first game of breathtaking quality lasting 14 minutes, taking advantage of his fifth break point.
The Spaniard settled quickly into his routine on serve and went up a double break when Djokovic double-faulted in the fifth game.
The shell-shocked Serbian, playing in his 10th Wimbledon final, held serve to love to close the gap to 5-2 but dumped the ball into the net to hand the Spaniard the first set.
Alcaraz was immediately on the front foot in the second set, forcing a break in the first game and fending off pressure on his own serve to take a 2-0 lead.
A Djokovic backhand into the net in the seventh game handed Alcaraz another break point and a double fault put the defending champion 5-2 up and on the cusp of a two-set lead.
The Center Court crowd, including Catherine, Princess of Wales, looked on in disbelief as their hopes for a titanic tussle evaporated.
The under-par Djokovic fended off another of clutch of break points early in the third set to stay alive and showed signs that he was finding his rhythm.
But Alcaraz broke for a 5-4 lead and moved to 40-0 on his own serve, only to suffer a wobble as Djokovic saved all three championship points, breaking for the first time in the match.
He recovered his composure quickly and the set went to a tie-break.
Djokovic went wide with a forehand to give Alcaraz a 5-3 lead and the Spaniard won the title with his fourth championship point, clambering up to the players’ box to celebrate with his family and coaching team.
The champion struck 42 winners to Djokovic’s 26 over the course of the match.
Princess Catherine, patron of the All England Club, handed over the trophy.
Last month she tentatively returned to British public life for the first time since her diagnosis, attending a military parade in London to mark King Charles III’s official birthday.
Djokovic, still without a title this year, will now turn his attention to the Paris Olympics as he seeks to win gold for the first time.
“It obviously was not the result I wanted but of course in the first couple of sets the level of tennis wasn’t up to par from my side,” he said.
“But credit to Carlos for playing elite tennis, especially from the back of the court, he had it all today.”


Siniakova and Townsend win women’s doubles title at Wimbledon

Updated 14 July 2024
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Siniakova and Townsend win women’s doubles title at Wimbledon

LONDON: After seeing longtime doubles partner Barbora Krejcikova win the Wimbledon singles title, Katerina Siniakova went out on Center Court and added another Grand Slam trophy to her own collection.
Siniakova won her third women’s doubles title at Wimbledon after teaming up with Taylor Townsend to beat Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1) on Saturday in a match that finished after 10:20 p.m. local time under floodlights.
“Amazing. I’m so proud of Barbora,” Siniakova said of her Czech countrywoman. “I’m just so happy that we could do it as well.”
Siniakova has won seven major doubles titles with Krejcikova and one with Coco Gauff at this year’s French Open. This was her first with Townsend, an American whose previous best Grand Slam result in doubles was two runner-up finishes at the 2022 US Open — in a loss to Siniakova and Krejcikova — and 2023 French Open.
Townsend said it was Siniakova’s idea for the two of them to play together at Wimbledon.
“I’m so glad Katerina slid into my DMs,” Townsend said.
A bit more than six hours after Krejcikova beat Jasmine Paolini in the women’s singles final, the fourth-seeded Siniakova and Townsend converted their first match point when Routliffe double-faulted.
Siniakova and Townsend failed to convert any of their seven break points in the second set but raced to 5-0 in the tiebreaker.
It was the third match of the day on Center Court after the men’s doubles final.
Siniakova and Krejcikova won the Wimbledon doubles in 2022 and 2018.
 

 


Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini

Updated 13 July 2024
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Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini

  • Her first major championship, as an unseeded player at the French Open three years ago, certainly was a surprise
  • “It’s just unreal what just happened. Definitely the best day of my tennis career — and also the best day of my life,” said Krejcikova

LONDON: Barbora Krejcikova kept insisting that nobody — not her friends, not her family, not even herself — would believe she won Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam title.
Her first major championship, as an unseeded player at the French Open three years ago, certainly was a surprise. This one, which came via a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Jasmine Paolini in the final at the All England Club on Saturday, was maybe just as unpredictable, sure, but perhaps now it’s time to recognize that these sorts of results from Krejcikova are not only possible but make perfect sense.
“It’s just unreal what just happened. Definitely the best day of my tennis career — and also the best day of my life,” said Krejcikova, a 28-year-old from the Czech Republic, who thanked her late mentor, 1998 Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna, for pushing her into professional tennis.
Even while holding her gold champion’s plate, Krejcikova described herself as “the lucky one” for getting past the seventh-seeded Paolini, who also was the runner-up at the French Open last month.
Krejcikova was only the 31st of 32 seeds at the All England Club after illness and a back injury this season limited her to a 7-9 record entering this tournament. Then came a three-setter in the first round last week, adding to the doubts.
But by the end of the fortnight, there Paolini was during the trophy ceremony, telling Krejcikova: “You play such beautiful tennis.”
Krejcikova is the eighth woman to leave Wimbledon as the champion in the past eight editions of the event. Last year’s champion also is from the Czech Republic: unseeded Marketa Vondrousova, who lost in the first round last week.
Paolini is the first woman since Serena Williams in 2016 to get to the finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same season — and the first since Venus Williams in 2002 to lose both.
Saturday’s finalists took turns being in charge.
Playing coolly and efficiently — seemingly effortlessly — Krejcikova claimed 10 of the first 11 points and quickly owned a double-break lead at 5-1.
As much as the crowd, likely because of a desire to see a more competitive contest, pulled loudly for Paolini, yelling “Forza!” (“Let’s go!”) the way she often does, or “Calma!” (“Be calm!”), Krejcikova never wavered.
She has net skills, to be sure — that’s part of why she has won seven Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, including two at Wimbledon — but Krejcikova mainly was content to stay back at the baseline, simply delivering one smooth groundstroke after another to its appointed spot and getting the better of the lengthiest exchanges.
There really was no need for anything other than Plan A in the early going in front of a Center Court crowd that included actors Tom Cruise, Kate Beckinsale and Hugh Jackman.
Paolini did try to shake things up a bit, with the occasional serve-and-volley rush forward or drop shot, but she couldn’t solve Krejcikova. Not yet, anyway.
After the lopsided first set, Paolini went to the locker room. She emerged a different player, one who no longer looked like someone burdened by residual fatigue from the longest women’s semifinal in Wimbledon history, her 2-hour, 51-minute win over Donna Vekic on Thursday.
Paolini had come back from dropping the first set in that one, so she knew she had it in her. And she began the second set against Krejcikova in style, using deep groundstrokes to grab a 3-0 advantage.
Once the match was tied at a set apiece, it was Krejcikova who left the court to try to recalibrate.
Her shots that suddenly went so awry in the match’s middle — after just four winners in the second set, she accumulated 14 in the third — were back to being crisp and clean.
“I was just telling myself to be brave,” Krejcikova said.
At 3-all in the deciding set, it was Paolini who faltered, double-faulting for the only time all afternoon to get broken.
Krejcikova then held at love for 5-3, but when she served for the championship, things got a little tougher.
She needed to save a pair of break points and required three match points to get across the finish line, winning when Paolini missed a backhand.
“Nobody believes that I got to the final. And I think nobody’s going to believe that I won Wimbledon,” Krejcikova said several minutes later. “I still cannot believe it. It’s unbelievable.”


Defending champion Alcaraz into Wimbledon final

Updated 12 July 2024
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Defending champion Alcaraz into Wimbledon final

  • World number three Alcaraz beat his fifth-ranked opponent 6-7 (1/7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
  • He will face either seven-time champion Novak Djokovic or Lorenzo Musetti

LONDON: Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz reached his fourth Grand Slam final at Wimbledon on Friday when he recovered from a set down to defeat Daniil Medvedev.
World number three Alcaraz beat his fifth-ranked opponent 6-7 (1/7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and will face either seven-time champion Novak Djokovic or Lorenzo Musetti for the title on Sunday.
Twice Medvedev led with breaks in the first set only to be pinned back by Alcaraz.
Such was his frustration that he was handed a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct by umpire Eva Asderaki for an apparent foul-mouthed reaction to a ball called for bouncing twice as he was broken in the ninth game.
The tournament referee was even summoned to Center Court by Asderaki, but Medvedev shrugged off the incident to sweep through the tie-break and take the opening set in which he committed only eight unforced errors to the Spaniard’s 15.
It was the third time at this year’s Wimbledon that Alcaraz had dropped the first set.
Alcaraz recovered impressively, breaking Medvedev for a 3-1 lead in the second having come out on top in the previous game on the back of a 27-shot rally.
The 21-year-old then hit 14 winners in the third set, pocketing the only break in the third game.
Medvedev, who had knocked out world number one Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals, retrieved a break early in the fourth set.
But Alcaraz kept up his assault, edging ahead again for 4-3 on his way to victory.


Paolini eyes Wimbledon title against Krejcikova after ‘crazy’ run

Updated 12 July 2024
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Paolini eyes Wimbledon title against Krejcikova after ‘crazy’ run

  • Paolini survived the longest women’s singles semifinal in Wimbledon history to beat Donna Vekic 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10/8) after two hours and 51 minutes of Center Court drama on Thursday

LONDON: Italy’s Jasmine Paolini has set her sights on capping a “crazy” run to Saturday’s Wimbledon final against Barbora Krejcikova by winning a maiden Grand Slam title.

Paolini survived the longest women’s singles semifinal in Wimbledon history to beat Donna Vekic 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10/8) after two hours and 51 minutes of Center Court drama on Thursday.

The 28-year-old is the first Italian woman to reach the final of the grass-court Grand Slam.

She will face Czech 31st seed Krejcikova, who enjoyed a shock 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over 2022 champion Elena Rybakina in the other semifinal.

It is an astonishing achievement for Paolini, who had not won a Tour-level match on grass until 15 days ago in Eastbourne, and lost in the first round on her previous three visits to Wimbledon.

She had also failed to go beyond the second round of a Grand Slam until this year.

But 2024 has been a breakthrough campaign for Paolini, who reached her maiden Grand Slam final at the French Open before losing to world number one Iga Swiatek.

Even Paolini can’t quite believe her remarkable rise.

“You are crazy, I would say, yes,” she said. “Yeah, I don’t have words. Just, yeah, you are crazy,” said Paolini, who started her unexpected rise by making the Australian Open last 16 in January.

“Two Grand Slam finals in a row was crazy to believe, no?“

Paolini, seeded seventh at Wimbledon, could be forgiven for feeling nervous as she chases the first Grand Slam title of her previously underwhelming career.

She conceded anxiety could be an issue on Center Court this weekend, but she can take heart from the gritty fightback against Vekic, who burst into tears as she let the semifinal slip away after holding a 3-1 lead in the deciding set.

Paolini is the first woman to reach back-to-back Roland Garros and Wimbledon finals since Serena Williams in 2016.

The final is just the second time Krejcikova and Paolini have met and their showdown will be a world away from their first encounter.

The pair squared off in the first round of qualifying for the Australian Open in 2018, with Krejcikova claiming a straight sets victory.

“It was a very long time ago, it’s been a great journey for both of us to reach the Wimbledon final,” Krejcikova said.

Krejcikova will be playing in the second Grand Slam final of her career after winning the French Open in 2021.

The 28-year-old had struggled with a back injury and illness this year, winning just three singles matches in the five months before finding her form in remarkable style at Wimbledon.

Krejcikova shocked 11th seed Danielle Collins in the fourth round, former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals and Rybakina in the last four.

The two-time Wimbledon doubles champion is inspired by 1998 All England Club winner Jana Novotna, who worked as her coach for a period before dying of cancer in 2017.

“She was telling me a lot of stories about her journeys here and how she was trying to win Wimbledon. I was so far when we had this talk and now I’m in the final,” said Krejcikova, who can become the sixth Czech woman to win Wimbledon.

“I have had many difficult periods. I never really imagined I could reach a Wimbledon final, that I can be a different player.

“I’m super happy I was able to fight through everything.”