Monday July 22, 2024

Djokovic strolls into semis as Rybakina cruises

July 11, 2024
Tennis players Elena Rybakina (left) and Novak Djokovic (right) seen in this image. — AFP/Reuters/file
Tennis players Elena Rybakina (left) and Novak Djokovic (right) seen in this image. — AFP/Reuters/file

LONDON: Novak Djokovic progressed to a record-equalling 13th Wimbledon semi-final without hitting a ball on Wednesday after Alex de Minaur pulled out injured as former champion Elena Rybakina eased through.

Australian ninth seed De Minaur, 25, announced shortly after midday at the All England Club that he was “devastated to pull out due to a hip injury”. It means Djokovic has now equalled Roger Federer’s men’s record of 13 semi-final appearances at Wimbledon as he closes on the Swiss great’s mark of eight singles titles.

The 37-year-old Serbian is also through to a record-extending 49th men’s Grand Slam semi-final. De Minaur, who beat Djokovic at the United Cup in January, said: “It’s no secret that this would have been the biggest match of my career but it’s a unique injury.

“I woke up this morning wanting to feel some sort of miracle, but there was a high risk of making the injury worse if I stepped on court.” Djokovic will play US 13th seed Taylor Fritz or Italian 25th seed Lorenzo Musetti for a place in Sunday’s showpiece match.

But a historic 25th Grand Slam triumph is coming into sharp focus for Djokovic, who demolished Holger Rune in straight sets in the fourth round. In early action on Wednesday, 2022 champion Rybakina barely broke sweat in swatting aside last year’s semi-finalist Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-2 in 61 minutes.

She will face Barbora Krejcikova for a place in Saturday’s final after the Czech 31st seed came out on top against Jelena Ostapenko in a battle of former French Open champions. Rybakina is now 19-2 in main-draw matches at Wimbledon -- only retired champions Ann Jones and Steffi Graf have better winning percentages at the tournament.

Russian-born Rybakina broke the Ukrainian 21st seed four times in the match on Centre Court. The fourth seed was broken in the first game in front of the watching Queen Camilla but hit back straight away and barely put a foot wrong after that.

The 25-year-old, who crunched 28 winners to Svitolina’s eight, said she had “amazing memories” from 2022 but does not like the favourite tag. “I have an aggressive style of game, I have a huge serve so it’s a big advantage,” she said.

Krejcikova took the first set against the Latvian 13th seed with a single break. Ostapenko, the 2018 Wimbledon semi-finalist, finally broke through in the fourth game of the second set for a 3-1 lead and backed it up with a hold.

But she went dramatically off the boil as Krejcikova reeled off the next four games for a 5-4 lead. Ostapenko clung on to break the Czech in the 10th game but 2021 French Open champion Krejcikova played the more composed tie-break to seal the victory.