Vekic Eclipses Sun’s Run to Reach First Wimbledon Semifinal

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 07: Donna Vekic of Croatia in action against Paula Badosa of Spain in the fourth round on Day Seven of The Championships Wimbledon 2024 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 07, 2024 in London, England. Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images

Staring into the Sun on Court No. 1, Donna Vekic realized a dream with a convincing closing kick.

Contesting her 43rd Grand Slam, Vekic rolled through a roaring finish ending the inspired run of 123rd-ranked qualifier Lulu Sun 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon.

Wearing the Wimbledon colors on her fingernail polish, Vekic seized hold of this quarterfinal with both hands racing through 13 consecutive points at the start of the decider to take complete command serving out her biggest career victory at love.

“I don’t even know, honestly, it was a really tough match she played unbelievable,” Vekic told Rishi Persad afterward. “I feel like she really pushed me to my limits and I hope you guys enjoyed it.”

Persistent rain pelted off the retractable roof covering No. 1 Court as the pair traded damaging drives.

After Sun took the opening set, Vekic dug in, drilled her forehand with more venom and kept attacking her shots to spark her comeback.

“I felt like I was dying out there the first two sets,” Vekic said. “I just kept going hoping to have a chance and it came in the end…

“I have a full box of people there and without them I would not be here.”

Twenty-three years after Croatian legend Goran Ivanisevic out-dueled Patrick Rafter 6–3, 3–6, 6–3, 2–6, 9–7 in the famed People’s Monday 2001 men’s final, Croatian Vekic will play French Open finalist Jasmine Paolini for a place in the ladies’ final on Saturday.

Paolini defeated 19th-seeded American Emma Navarro 6-2, 6-1 to advance to her second straight Grand Slam semifinal.

Vekic, the daughter of a mother who was, Brankica, a former hurdler and a soccer goalie dad Igor, has scaled every obstacle—defeating Australian Open semifinalist Dayana Yastremska and former Indian Wells champion Paula Badosa and suffering first-set sun burn today. Yet through it all Vekic kept her composure, competed with resilience and showed no trace of self-doubt at closing time.

Vekic’s rise ends Sun’s remarkable run that saw her topple Australian Open finalist and No. 8 seed Zheng Qinwen in the opening round and 2021 US Open champion and home hero Emma Raducanu in the fourth round, played two strong sets but lost her edge in the decider.

The branding blared Sun’s mission before she even struck a shot.

“Astonish” emblazoned in bright blue across Sun’s white top is the sponsor logo of a UK-based cleaning company. Sun did exactly that with an astounding run she continued in the opening set today.

During a 10-deuce game, Sun saved a third break point pumping a forehand that hit a brown patch near the baseline and did not come up scooting beneath Vekic’s racquet. That set up Sun slamming a forehand winner to finally seal the hold for 2-2 after a challenging 13-minute game.

The lefty forehand Sun slashes can be a devious shot for opponents as she can hit it with topspin, sidespin or flatten it out. Vekic again pressured in the sixth game, but Sun slammed a forehand crosscourt capping a deuce hold to level after six games.

Contesting her third career major quarterfinal, Vekic was tested to deuce in the seventh game. Casting a glance up at her box at coaches Nick Horvat and Pam Shriver, Vekic answered with an ace and jolting forehand to help edge ahead 5-4 after 46 minutes of play.

Measuring a bold backhand, Vekic banged a two-handed return down the line—nearly over the net post—to go up love-30 in the 10th game.

Sun was smacking her forehand with more vigor. She backed Vekic up and drew the error breaking for 6-5.

Serving for the set, Sun pulled the string on a perfect backhand dropper—that would have impressed drop-shot king Carlos Alcaraz—to seal the opening set.

Both women hit 14 winners in the one-hour opener, but Vekic was 0 for 4 on break point chances, Sun converted one of three break points and that was a crucial difference.

Stepping inside the court more frequently, Vekic was trying to dictate with her own forehand and prevent the left-handed Sun from imposing her forehand.

Depth down the middle helped Vekic create the break in the eighth game of set two.

Denying Sun access to angles, Vekic blasted a backhand return right at the New Zealander handcuffing her opponent to break for 5-3.

World No. 37 Vekic caught a break while serving for the set as Sun soared for a smash but sailed it long. Vekic smiled off the stress and slid a serve winner for set point only to see Sun save it.

Wilting a bit under pressure, Vekic committed a couple of double faults and a netted error as Sun broke back for 4-5.

In her 10th Wimbledon appearance, experience empowered Vekic, who won 13 of 14 first-serve points in the second set and was trying to take the initiative in baseline exchanges.

A recharged Vekic rolled through 13 consecutive points charging out to a 3-0 lead in the decider before a sinking Sun smacked an ace down the T to stall her slide.

The 28-year-old Croatian rocked Sun’s serve again with another fierce forehand breaking for 4-0.

Serving for her maiden major semifinal, Vekic finished a fine, two hour, 8-minute performance at love.

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