Jasmine Paolini outlasts Donna Vekic in classic semifinal at Wimbledon

Jasmine Paolini is through to her second straight Grand Slam final after defeating Donna Vekic at Wimbledon. Here is what happened.
Jasmine Paolini at Wimbledon 2024
Jasmine Paolini at Wimbledon 2024 / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

Playing Jasmine Paolini would be zero fun. She is small in stature which limits her reach, but her sheer speed keeps her in points she has no business being in. Against Donna Vekic in the semifinals at Wimbledon, the Italian had no business even being in the match. Yet, after being blasted by the power of Vekic in the first set, Paolini somehow stole the second set to force a third.

To be sure, the match was shaping up to not only be the best one at Wimbledon this year, but one of the more memorable in several years.

Vekic rightfully did not change her approach, though. She came into the match with a clear idea to keep smashing shots from both wings to the baseline so that Paolini would be forced to play back instead of running all over the court and creating chaos. For much of the first half of the match that worked, even in the second set.

Jasmine Paolini defeats Donna Vekic is instant classic at Wimbledon

The difference in that set was that Paolini - who while only 5'4" and can hit serves over 100 MPH - was more consistently landing her first serve. This was enough to take a few service games she shouldn't and she finally got a break of Vekic at the end of the set. She seemed to have momentum heading into the final set, but Vekic changed that quickly.

Continuing to swing away and dictate the style of play, Vekic got a break to start the third set and was able to hold serve a bit more easily. Each service game for Paolini became a chore and she barely managed to hold on her next two service games. Vekic's power was simply seemingly becoming overwhelming for the quick Italian.

Until - somehow - Paolini got a break of Vekic to even the third set at 3-all. Maybe nerves began to get to Vekic a little early. After all, she had never been past the quarterfinals at any major. Meanwhile, Paolini could simply use her speed to react and not have to think too much on Vekic's serve.

The issue was that Paolini, like every player, did have to think about her own serve - where to place it so she could control the point. While she can hit with pace, her serves are not unreturnable. The momentum shifted again when Vekic got the break right back against Paolini to go up 4-3.

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Yet, Paolini found a way to get the break right back again to even the match at 4-all. Play was becoming almost more of who wouldn't lose the match instead of who would win it. After Paolini held to make the score 5-4, she likely could sense victory was within reach but not quite yet.

What also may have helped Vekic, though, was that she likely was not nervous going into the third set. During her run at Wimbledon, the Croat only had one of her six matches go two sets. No player could have been better prepared for the drama of a three-set semifinal match which is why by the end of the third set Vokic appearing to be near-tears was surprising. Playing so much tennis at an important event can take its toll physically and emotionally.

With the match at 5-6, and with Paolini holding a break and match point, Vekic somehow came through in a long rally to even the game. She eventually forced a tie-break, one in which Vekic seemed emotionally and physically spent while Paolini was clearly tiring as well, though she was still trying to chase down balls.

This match had become a classic. Both players were willing to go beyond what they thought they could do. Points were still magnificently well played, however; potentially even improving over the form of each earlier in the match. Each time one player would seemingly gain momentum, the other would take it right back.

This carried through into the tie-break as well. Each player held their serve late in the tie-break. Finally, at 9-8, Paolini came through with the break to take the match.

Paolini will play the winner of the Elena Rybakina versus Barbora Krejcikova match in the final. Rybakina will be the heavy favorite the rest of the way at Wimbledon.

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