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Wimbledon: Jasmine Paolini, Donna Vekic, Barbora Krejcikova and Elena Rybakina battle for spot in the final

Jasmine Paolini faces Donna Vekic while 2022 champion Elena Rybakina takes on Barbora Krejcikova in the Wimbledon women's semi-finals on Thursday; you can follow updates from Wimbledon by heading to our live blog or live scores page

Jasmine Paolini has become one of the stories of the tournament
Image: Jasmine Paolini has become one of the stories of the tournament

The Italian Job is on. Where Jasmine Paolini may cut the same unassuming stature of a Mini Cooper, she is every bit the deceptive roar and vigour of its gold-shifting modifications. Her heist remains in progress.

Paolini has strung together one of the runs of the fortnight at Wimbledon as the eruption of energy, personality and talent that now sits in surprise contention with the biggest prize in her sights.

The 28-year-old defeated Emma Navarro on Tuesday to book her place in the semi-finals at SW19, where she will meet Donna Vekic following the Croatian's victory over qualifier Lulu Sun.

Paolini had not made it into the second week of the Grand Slam prior to 2024; she has now reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon, the final of the French Open and the fourth round of the Australian Open since the turn of the year.

She had also never won a main draw contest on grass before Wimbledon.

"Maybe I didn't realise before, but my coach was telling me that I could play well here. I wasn't believing too much," Paolini admitted after her win over Navarro.

"I think also the last two years I played against Kvitova first round, so it was tough to believe it. I felt great also in Eastbourne. I was hitting well the ball on this surface, moving well. I was repeating to myself, Okay, it's nice to play on grass. You can play well.

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"I didn't expect to do a semi-finals here at all."

She marks the first Italian woman in the Open Era to ever reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon, while becoming the first Italian woman to break into the top five since Sara Errani in 2013.

Not only has it been her bubbly demeanour and beaming smile that has won over the British crowds, but so too the speed at which she races to reach every ball, the ferocity with which she delivers shots and the varied angles she finds to trouble opponents.

Awaiting her is a similarly-absorbing story in that of Vekic, who becomes the first Croatian woman to reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon since Mirjana Lucic in 1999.

Only five times had she made it past the third round at a Grand Slam upon arriving at the All England Club, her best result being quarter-final appearances at the US Open in 2019 and French Open in 2023. She will now contest for a place in the final having admitted she nearly walked away from tennis.

"There were a couple of times in my career that I didn't want to play tennis anymore and most of you know that was after my surgeries but there was a more recent one, the Thursday before Roland Garros when I arrived and told Nik (coach Nikola Horvat) I wanted to pull out and go home and take a longer break because I didn't have any energy or motivation to keep pushing.

"I had felt like I'd given everything to tennis the last few months and wasn't getting the results I expected. It was a tough moment, but everybody was there for me.

"That loss in Paris was so so painful but it motivated me again to keep working and pushing, and it's crazy in tennis how things can turn so quickly."

Vekic enters Thursday's semi-final having won 80 per cent of first serve points - fourth best in the tournament - while Paolini has won 115 first serve receiving points, more than any other player.

Rybakina the favourite?

The other women's semi-final sees Elena Rybakina continue her rampant pursuit of a second Wimbledon women's singles crown when she takes on Barbora Krejcikova.

She comes off the back of a ruthless display to dispatch Elina Svitolina in straight sets, her serving exploits and power from the baseline seeing her emerge as a favourite to clinch a second Grand Slam title.

"I'm feeling pretty well on the court, especially last three matches," she said. "I think I showed really good tennis. Sometimes serve can be off, but then the groundstrokes are really well. I'm playing pretty confident.

"I think staying really aggressive from the first shots. 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."

Rybakina is the only player remaining to have won the tournament, having beaten Ons Jabeur to become champion back in 2022. She joked on court Wednesday she did not enjoy being labelled as a favourite.

"I don't really think about it so much," she later added. "In 2022 I was definitely more nervous than now. It was the first time for me to play on Centre Court. It was a lot of people, a lot of attention.

"I got used to it a little bit. I'm taking these matches in a different way."

For Krejcikova it beckons as a second Grand Slam semi-final, the first having featured on her path to French Open glory against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in 2021.

She sealed her place in the final four with a 6-4 7-6 win over Jelena Ostapenko, during which she won 81 per cent of first serve points to her opponent's 61 per cent.

Only Paolini has won more break points than Krejcikova's 23, while the 10-time doubles Grand Slam champion is notably 2-0 against Rybakina in the pair's head-to-head record.

"I don't have the words right now," she said. "I was so much into the game I told myself I'm going to give it everything I have and I'm really happy that I did. It's an unbelievable moment for me."

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