Wimbledon Daily Preview: Former Champions Djokovic, Rybakina Play Their Quarterfinals - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Former Champions Djokovic, Rybakina Play Their Quarterfinals

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Novak Djokovic playing the “violin” on Monday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Day 10 at The Championships hosts the last four singles quarterfinals.

Despite having knee surgery less than a month before the beginning of this fortnight, Novak Djokovic is just three matches away from his milestone 25th Major singles title.  In Wednesday’s quarterfinals, he faces Alex de Minaur, who owns a victory over Djokovic this season, but also appeared to sustain an injury of his own at the end of his fourth round match on Monday.  The winner will face either Taylor Fritz or Lorenzo Musetti, who will square off on Day 10 as both vie for their first Major semifinal.

Following Coco Gauff’s exit in the last round,2022 champion Elena Rybakina became a significant favorite to win her second Wimbledon title.  On Wednesday, she plays Elina Svitolina, who has advanced to the semifinals in two of her last three appearances at The Championships.  The other ladies’ singles quarterfinal is a collision between two Roland Garros champions: Jelena Ostapenko and Barbora Krejcikova


Jelena Ostapenko (13) vs. Barbora Krejcikova (31) – 1:00pm on No.1 Court

Through four rounds, Ostapenko has been utterly dominant, dropping just 15 games across eight sets.  She’s now 28-12 on the year, having captured two titles early in the season, in Adelaide and Linz.  This is a sixth Major quarterfinal for Jelena, a round in which she holds a record of 2-3.  And she’s now 20-8 at Wimbledon, which despite her Roland Garros title, is her best Major by far.

Krejcikova has only lost one set to this stage, most notably upsetting the 11th seed, Danielle Collins, in the last round.  She is just 11-9 this season, as Barbora battled a back injury earlier in the year.  This is a fifth Major quarterfinal for Krejcikova, and she’s only 1-3 to date, having lost her last three.  And while this is the farthest she has ever advanced at The Championships in singles, she’s twice won this event in doubles.

Both of these players are still alive in both ladies’ singles and ladies’ doubles, so each has won between 6-7 matches across the two disciplines this fortnight.  In singles, Ostapenko leads Krejcikova 5-2 at all levels, and 3-2 within the past four seasons at WTA level.  Jelena has taken their last three meetings, all in straight sets, and on three different surfaces, most recently a year ago on grass in the final of Birmingham.

As per IBM, Ostapenko has run considerably less per point than any other player remaining, dictating play from the baseline with her aggressive groundstrokes.  And when she’s striking the ball this confidently, she’s one of the sport’s toughest players to beat.  Ostapenko should be favored to achieve her second career Wimbledon semifinal. 


Elena Rybakina (4) vs. Elina Svitolina (21) – 1:30pm on Centre Court

Svitolina was not able or interested in hiding how emotional she was before, during, or after her round of 16 win on Monday, following news of the latest unprovoked attack by Russian on Ukraine, which included a missile strike on a children’s hospital.  And while Rybakina represents Kazakhstan, she was born and raised in Russia.  So unfortunately for both players, there are political undertones to this match, as well as emotions that go well beyond the tennis court.

Rybakina is now 39-7 this season, and with her win on Monday, is 18-2 at The Championship, making her one of three women to own a 90% or better winning percentage at this event, along with Steffi Graf and Ann Jones.  Svitolina is a modest 22-12 in 2024, but at the Majors, she’s 10-2, having advanced to the second week at all three thus far.  Both players have lost one set through four rounds.

They have also split four previous meetings, all within the last four years.  Their only grass court matchup, three years ago in Eastbourne, went to Rybakina in straights.  Just a few weeks later in the bronze medal match at the Tokyo Olympics, Svitolina came from a set down to win in three, denying Rybakina a spot on the podium.  And just a month ago at Roland Garros, Rybakina prevailed 6-4, 6-3.

Svitolina will certainly be inspired to win on her country’s behalf on Wednesday.  If she can avoid being backed up well behind the baseline by Rybakina, and force Rybakina to start spraying errors as she can be prone to do, Svitolina has a path to victory.  But based on Rybakina’s current form, and on this surface, the 2022 champion is the favorite to advance.


Lorenzo Musetti (25) vs. Taylor Fritz (13) – Second on No.1 Court

Fritz’s first Major quarterfinal came at this tournament two years ago, when he lost a heartbreaker to Rafael Nadal in a fifth-set tiebreak.  He’s reached two more quarterfinals since, at the most recent staging of both the US Open and Australian Open, and is into a fourth thanks to a comeback from two-sets-down on Monday over Sascha Zverev.  Taylor now tries to break new ground by achieving his first Major semifinal, and for the first time, his quarterfinal does not feature an opponent named Nadal or Djokovic.

This is a first Slam quarterfinal for Musetti, after twice reaching the fourth round of Roland Garros.  The 22-year-old Italian has played three four-setters and one five-setter to this stage, in an open part of the draw where he’s yet to face a seeded player.  It’s been a great grass court season for Lorenzo, who is now 11-2 on this surface within the last month.

They have played three times, once on each surface, with Fritz leading 2-1.  Taylor won in straight sets on a hard court and grass, including at this event two years ago, while Lorenzo won in straights on clay, just a few months ago in Monte Carlo. 

If Fritz can avoid a physical and emotional letdown coming off the Zverev match, and withstand the pressure of being the favorite in a Major quarterfinal for the first time in his career, he should advance.  Taylor has been serving excellently, striking 15 aces and zero double faults against Zverev, and winning 83% of first serve points.  If he comes anywhere close to those stats again on Wednesday, Musetti’s chances of winning will be slim.


Alex de Minaur (9) vs. Novak Djokovic (2) – Second on Centre Court

Could Djokovic be the healthier player on this day?  His knee has not appeared to have a considerable impact on his form during this tournament, dropping just two sets thus far.  By contrast, de Minaur came into this event seemingly healthy, yet appeared to injure himself while lunging for the ball during the last point of his last match, resulting in an extremely muted celebration as he achieved his second Major quarterfinal, as well as looks of concern towards his camp.

Alex’s speed and defensive abilities are his biggest weapon in this matchup, which helped him beat Novak at the beginning of this season in the United Cup.  Djokovic claimed their other two encounters in straight sets, at last year’s Australian Open and this year’s Masters 1000 event in Monte Carlo.

At a tournament where Djokovic has been almost completely dominant for the past decade, winning it six times since 2014, you cannot be anything less than your best to upset him.   And considering Novak has won 17 of his last 18 Major quarterfinals, the seven-time champion must be favored.


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Jasmine Paolini Plays Barbora Krejcikova for the Ladies’ Singles Championship

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Jasmine Paolini after winning her semifinal on Thursday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Day 13 at The Championships hosts the championship matches in ladies’ singles, ladies’ doubles, and gentlemen’s doubles.

It’s cliché, and usually untrue, to say “No one expected these two finalists.”  But in this case, it is absolutely true.  Prior to this fortnight, Jasmine Paolini had never won a match at The Championships.  And Barbora Krejcikova arrived at SW19 with a losing record on the year.  Yet both will play in their second Major singles final on Saturday, after inspired play during this tournament.


Barbora Krejcikova (31) vs. Jasmine Paolini (7) – 2:00pm on Centre Court

After failing to advance beyond the second round in her first 16 appearances at Majors, Paolini is now 15-2 in her last three, and is the first WTA player to reach the final of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon since Serena Williams in 2016.  Jasmine is 30-12 on the year, and has won 14 of her last 16 matches.  She has been taken to three sets twice during this event, most recently outlasting Donna Vekic in a third-set tiebreak during Thursday’s semifinals.

Krejcikova has also required three sets in two of her six matches to this stage, upsetting 2022 champion Elena Rybakina in the semis.  That was the third win in a row for Barbora over a higher-seed, after ousting two other big hitters, Danielle Collins and Jelena Ostapenko.  She’s accomplished all this despite being just 7-9 this season before this tournament began.  Injuries have plagued her career since her 2021 Roland Garros singles title, including a back injury earlier this year. 

Paolini is 2-4 lifetime in singles finals at WTA level, while Krejcikova is 7-5.  However, when you consider their appearances in Major finals between singles and doubles, Paolini is 0-2, having lost both the women’s singles and doubles finals last month in Paris, while Krejcikova is an amazing 11-1.  That’s a huge contrast in success at Grand Slam level.

These players also possess contrasting styles.  Paolini has been crushing her forehand, using it to come forward and show off her great hands at the net.  Krejcikova has a good serve, as well as both power and guile on her groundstrokes.  She loves using her slice to keep her opponents off-balance.  However, that will be more difficult to do against such a great mover like Jasmine.  And Barbora’s forehand has become unreliable in some crucial moments during this fortnight, which the Italian can target.

But on this surface, and considering her history in Major finals, I give the edge to Krejcikova to win her second Major singles title.  Plus, Barbora has already won two ladies’ doubles titles on this same court.  And she would surely cherish the chance to honor her late coach and mentor Jana Novotna by holding the Venus Rosewater Dish aloft on Centre Court, just as Jana did in 1998.


Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson (15) vs. Harri Heliovaara and Henry Patten – This is a fourth Major final in men’s doubles for Purcell, who won this title two years ago alongside another Aussie, Matthew Ebden.  Thompson had never advanced beyond the fourth round of a Major in either men’s singles or doubles until this run.  Patten is also a Major final debutante, while Heliovaara won last year’s US Open in mixed doubles.

Katerina Siniakova and Taylor Townsend (4) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe (2) – Siniakova is playing for the ninth Major title in women’s doubles, while Townsend is playing for her first, after going 0-2 in previous finals.  Dabrowski and Routliffe are the reigning US Open champions, and Routliffe will become the new World No.1 in women’s doubles on Monday, regardless of Saturday’s result.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Alcaraz and Medvedev Collide in a Semifinal Rematch

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Carlos Alcaraz earlier this week (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Day 12 at The Championships hosts the gentlemen’s singles semifinals, as well as the semifinals in both ladies’ and mixed doubles.

We are just one match away from a highly-anticipated rematch of last year’s epic gentlemen’s singles final between Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz.  However, just as he did last summer at the US Open, Daniil Medvedev is eager to spoil the party, and defeat Alcaraz in another Major semifinal.  Plus, Djokovic needs to overcome 22-year-old Italian Lorenzo Musetti, who owns a victory over Novak.


Daniil Medvedev (5) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – 1:30pm on Centre Court

Alcaraz leads their head-to-head 4-2, with three of those victories coming on hard courts, Medvedev’s preferred surface.  They’ve twice before played at this tournament, and they split those meetings.  Medvedev won in straights three years ago in the second round, while Alcaraz won in straights last year in this same round.  And since Daniil defeated Carlitos in four sets last September in New York, Alcaraz has beaten him twice in straights, including a few months ago in the Indian Wells final.

A year after last year’s one-sided semifinal between these same two players, Medvedev appears much more comfortable on grass, and willing to be more aggressive and vary his return position against Alcaraz.  Many of Carlitos’ victories over Daniil have been a result of Medvedev returning serve from way back in the court, allowing Alcaraz to come forward and dictate play, as well as use his beloved drop shot.  But Daniil has recently moved forward and played more offensively, not only against Carlitos, but also against Jannik Sinner, as we saw in the last round.

And Alcaraz has appeared quite vulnerable throughout this fortnight, dropping at least one set in each of his last three matches, all of which featured stints of sloppy play from the defending champion.  Yet as he usually does, Carlitos has created some magic in big moments, including during a come-from-behind victory over Frances Tiafoe in five sets.  And as improved as Medvedev is on grass, this surface still favors the power and variety of Alcaraz.  Carlitos is the favorite to prevail in what should be a contest full of dynamic rallies.


Lorenzo Musetti (25) vs. Novak Djokovic (2) – Second on Centre Court

Musetti’s victory over Djokovic came a year ago on clay in Monte Carlo, in a three-hour three-setter.  The Italian also had the all-time great on the ropes during their first clash at the 2021 French Open, when Lorenzo won the first two sets in tiebreaks, before wilting and losing the next three 6-1, 6-0, 4-0, as a depleted Musetti would retire and be unable to even finish the match. 

Their most recent encounter was also a Roland Garros five-setter.  Just a month ago in Paris, Djokovic again came from behind to defeat Musetti in five, with the last two sets featuring lopsided scores of 6-3 and 6-0.  Overall Novak has claimed five of their six matches.

Lorenzo’s lasting power on Friday will not be aided by a draining five-set win on Wednesday against Taylor Fritz.  By contrast, Djokovic did not play at all on Wednesday, as Alex de Minaur withdrew from their quarterfinal due to injury.  Normally such an interruption to a player’s schedule late in a big event can negatively impact their rhythm.  But Novak is now a 49-time Major semifinalist, so there’s not much he’s unprepared for at this stage of his illustrious career.  And his recently surgically-repaired knee likely didn’t mind the extra rest and recovery time.

And Novak’s record across the past decade in Major semifinals is mind-boggling: since the 2015 Australian Open, he is 22-2.  At Wimbledon specifically, Djokovic hasn’t lost a semifinal since 2012, having won his last eight.  Against an opponent making his Major semifinal debut, Novak is a considerable favorite, even if his knee is still far from 100%.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Su-wei Hsieh and Elise Mertens (1) vs. Katerina Siniakova and Taylor Townsend (4) – Su-wei and Mertens crushed Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula in the last round, as each looks to become a ladies’ doubles finalist in all four of their latest appearances at The Championships.  Hsieh will also play in the mixed doubles semifinals later in the day.  Siniakova is an eight-time Major champion in women’s doubles, while Townsend is a two-time finalist. 

Caroline Dolehide and Desirae Krawczyk (7) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe (2) – Dolehide was a surprising finalist in singles at last fall’s WTA 1000 event in Guadalajara, but is 0-5 in women’s doubles semifinals at Majors.  Krawczyk is a four-time Major champ in mixed doubles, with two of those wins coming at Wimbledon.  Dabrowski and Routliffe are the reigning US Open champions, and like Hsieh, Erin is also in the mixed doubles semis.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Major Champions Rybakina and Krejcikova Meet in the Semifinals

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Elena Rybakina after her quarterfinal victory on Wednesday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Day 11 at The Championships hosts the ladies’ singles semifinals, as well as the gentlemen’s double semifinals.

2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina plays 2021 Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova in Thursday’s ladies’ singles semifinals.  The winner advances to Saturday’s championship match against either Roland Garros runner-up Jasmine Paolini or four-time WTA titleholder Donna Vekic.  In what has been an unpredictable ladies’ singles draw, who will prevail on Day 11?


Donna Vekic vs. Jasmine Paolini (7) – 1:30pm on Centre Court

What an amazing year it has been for Paolini.  At the start of 2024, the 28-year-old Italian had never advanced beyond the second round of a Major in 16 appearances.  But after reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open, and winning a WTA 1000 title in Dubai, she went all the way to the championship match a month ago at Roland Garros, upsetting Rybakina in the quarterfinals.  And now Jasmine has backed up that career milestone with a second consecutive Major semifinal, following a dominant performance against Emma Navarro in the last round.  Paolini will debut inside the top five on Monday.

This is the farthest Vekic has ever advanced at a Major, after previously going 0-2 in quarterfinals.  The 28-year-old Croatian has battled multiple injuries during her career, and was only 12-11 on the year coming into the grass court season.  But Donna has now won eight of her last nine matches on grass, after reaching the final of Bad Homburg two weeks ago.  Grass has easily been the best surface of her career, and she’s benefitted from adding Hall of Famer Pam Shriver to her team.

Paolini and Vekic have split two official meetings, both on hard courts within the past three years.  Jasmine also defeated Donna three years ago in Cincinnati qualifying.  But this surface should certainly favor Vekic, who possesses the much more formidable serve.  Against Lulu Sun in the quarterfinals, Donna won a superb 87% of first serve points. 

In her own quarterfinal against Navarro, Paolini has able to open up the court with her surprisingly powerful forehand, and then coming to net consistently, nabbing 16 of 17 points at net.  Jasmine plays doubles regularly, so she’s fully comfortable coming forward.  And she’s a great returner, as she broke Navarro in five out of seven service games.

This should be a fascinating contest between two players with contrasting styles.  Will Paolini’s recent experience in a Major semifinal be a key factor?  Will Vekic’s grass court prowess carry her to victory?  I give the slight edge to Donna, as I will be surprised if Jasmine can attack Donna’s serve as well as Jasmine has attacked the serve of others, though the Italian has continued to surprise me throughout this season.


Barbora Krejcikova (31) vs. Elena Rybakina (4) – Second on Centre Court

Rybakina is now 19-2 lifetime at The Championships, after a clinical straight-set victory against Elina Svitolina on Wednesday.  That was also her 40th win of the season, which is second-best in WTA singles, despite Elena pulling out of several events due to injury and illness.  She’s dropped just one set through five matches during this fortnight, and across the last three rounds, has struck 89 winners and only 48 unforced errors. 

This semifinal run from Krejcikova has come out of nowhere, as she was just 7-9 before arriving at SW19, in a season interrupted by a back injury.  But she’s been most impressive in back-to-back wins over big-hitting seeded players (Collins, Ostapenko), using her variety to move them around the court, and put them in uncomfortable positions.  If Barbora can do that against Elena on Thursday, she has a real shot at advancing to her second Major final in singles.  And while Krejcikova was just 6-3 in singles at this event prior to this fortnight, she’s twice won this event in ladies’ doubles.

Krejickova is also 2-0 against Rybakina, having won a pair of three-setters on hard courts within the last few seasons.  On this surface, and at this stage of a tournament, with Elena holding a 5-1 record in semifinals this year, Rybakina remains the favorite.  But Elena also knows she’s now a big favorite to win this tournament for a second time, which places plenty of pressure on her shoulders.  I do not expect this semifinal to be straightforward for the 2022 champion.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (1) vs. Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson (15) – This is a gentlemen’s doubles semifinal.  The top seeds are still looking for the first Major of their partnership, despite advancing to the Wimbledon final in two of the last three years.  Purcell won this event in 2022 alongside Matthew Ebden, while this is a first Major semifinal for Thompson.

Harri Heliovaara and Henry Patten vs. Neal Skupski and Michael Venus (9) – This is the second gentlemen’s doubles semifinal.  Skupski won this tournament a year ago with Wesley Koolhof, and also won mixed doubles here in both 2021 and 2022.  Venus won a Major in men’s doubles at the 2017 French Open.  Heliovaara won mixed doubles at last year’s US Open, and has won two ATP titles this season alongside Patten of Great Britain.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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