‘Best tennis’ Halep sets up Wimbledon semi with Rybakina

Published July 7, 2022
LONDON: Amanda Anisimova of the US plays a return to Romania’s Simona Halep during their Wimbledon quarter-final at the All England Tennis Club on Wednesday.—AFP
LONDON: Amanda Anisimova of the US plays a return to Romania’s Simona Halep during their Wimbledon quarter-final at the All England Tennis Club on Wednesday.—AFP

LONDON: Former champion Simona Halep said she is playing her “best tennis” as she set up a Wimbledon semi-final clash with Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina on Wednesday.

Halep, the 2019 winner, comfortably reached her third semi-final at the All England Club with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Amanda Anisimova of the United States.

Russian-born Rybakina became the first player representing Kazakhstan to reach a Grand Slam semi-final when she defeated Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

“Definitely this is my best tennis,” said Halep, who missed last year’s Wimbledon with a calf injury.

“I am trying to build my confidence back, and it’s good.” The Romanian 16th seed, who was also French Open champion in 2018, broke Anisimova’s serve four times in the match, wrapping up victory in just over an hour.

“It’s great to be back in the semi-finals,” said the former world number one.

“I’m very emotional right now. It means a lot.” The 30-year-old took charge early in the match on Centre Court, racing into a 5-1 lead and taking the set 6-2.

It was a similar story in the second set, with Halep again dominating and going 5-1 up with a double break.

Anisimova dug deep, earning her own break of serve when Halep served for the match but the Romanian stayed calm to serve out for the win.

“I had to stay strong on my legs -- they helped me today,” said Halep, who has not dropped a set at Wimbledon this year.

“I also needed my serve -- everything was good, and it finished well.”

Rybakina came from behind to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final, firing 15 aces past Tomljanovic, who had also made the last-eight in 2021. “It is amazing. I am really happy to be into the semi-final. It was a really tough match,” said the 23-year-old Moscow-born player.

“I started a bit slow, I didn’t serve that well.

“Maybe I was nervous. She played really well and was defending really good but I just tried to focus on my serve and try to find my way and in the end I found it.”

Rybakina switched nationality in 2018. This year Russian and Belarusian players are banned from Wimbledon following the invasion of Ukraine.

Rybakina fired five aces in the first set but her 10 winners were cancelled out by her 10 unforced errors.

The steadier Tomljanovic did not concede a break point while a single break in the third game was enough to hand her the opener.

Back came Moscow-born Rybakina with a triple break in the second set to level the tie.

She swept through the decider and despite being broken when serving for the match in the seventh game, she made no mistake in the ninth with another ace sealing the win.

Halep and Rybakina have met three times so far, with the Romanian holding a 2-1 edge.

In the men’s event Nick Kyrgios reached his first Grand Slam semi-final when the controversial Australian defeated Cristian Garin of Chile 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).

“I never thought I’d be in the semi-final of a Grand Slam. I thought that ship had sailed, that I may have wasted that little window in my career,” said Kyrgios.

“I am really happy I was able to come out here with my team and able to put on a performance.”

He added: “I felt I was playing on the back foot a lot. Garin’s a hell of a player. I got lucky on a couple of break points so I’ll take that and will prepare for my next match.”

Kyrgios went into the match under a new cloud of controversy after it emerged he faces an Australian court next month to answer an allegation of assault.

The 27-year-old was certainly distracted in the opening stages of Wednesday’s match as Garin claimed the first nine points.

But the Australian was back on level terms at 3-3 and grabbed the opening set in the 10th game.

Kyrgios romped through the second set, wrapping it up with his 10th ace of the contest.

Garin, bidding to be the first Chilean to reach a Wimbledon semi-final, ran into a Kyrgios brick wall as the Australian saved eight of the nine break points he faced over the course of the match.

Victory took Kyrgios’s grass-court record in 2022 to 12 wins in 14 matches.

JABEUR, NORRIE IN MAIDEN GRAND SLAM SEMIS

Late on Tuesday, world number two Ons Jabeur became the first Arab woman to reach the semi-final of a Grand Slam, setting up a Wimbledon meeting with Tatjana Maria.

The Tunisian went one set down to Czech opponent Marie Bouzkova but lost only two games after that as she powered to a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 win on Centre Court.

Jabeur is the only remaining player seeded in the top 15 left in the tournament at the All England Club.

The 27-year-old said she was happy that she “woke up” after a disappointing first set.

“I am really, really happy especially that it happened on this court because I have so much love for this court,” she said.

“Hopefully the journey for me will continue.”

The Tunisian, who had not lost a set in her run to the quarter-finals, was broken twice by the 66th-ranked Bouzkova in the first set.

But it was a different story for the rest of the match as she broke her opponent’s serve six times, hitting 30 winners — more than twice her opponent’s tally.

In the men’s event, British ninth-seed Cameron Norrie also reached his first Grand Slam semi-final when he twice came from behind to beat unseeded Belgian David Goffin in five sets to set up a dream Wimbledon meeting with Novak Djokovic.

Norrie looked out of sorts for much of the match but, lifted by the fans who threw their support behind their adopted South Africa-born home hope, found an extra gear in a tense fifth set to secure the biggest win of his career by 3-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.

“I can’t even talk, I’m so happy to get through with such a great team, such a great family and friends here,” said the 26-year-old who was ranked 50th a little over a year ago.

Having come into the match full of confidence after successive straight-set wins Norrie was surprisingly ragged in the first set. He rallied to take the second but then managed only two points in the first four games of the third as Goffin, also looking to make the last four at a major for the first time, took it without having to do anything extraordinary.

The Belgian was on court for four and a half hours in getting past Frances Tiafoe on Sunday and began to look a little tired in the fourth as Norrie upped his own intensity to level the match, much to the delight of a packed Number One Court.

There was little in it as they battled to 5-5 in the fifth set when Norrie somehow found an extra gear to blast through a service break to love and then served out safely to secure the biggest win of his career.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2022

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