Monday, July 22, 2024

Vekic leaves Sun in the shade


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London, July 9: Unseeded no longer means unimaginable or unthinkable.
Just a year after Marketa Vondrousova became the first unseeded ladies’ champion in Wimbledon’s history, it might just happen again, with Donna Vekic reaching the semi-finals to move within just two more match victories of lifting the Venus Rosewater Dish in Saturday’s final.In a wild turnaround under the closed roof of No. 1 Court, which was in keeping with the often unpredictable feel of the bottom half of the draw, Vekic stopped qualifier Lulu Sun, who had been hoping to go on to achieve a Wimbledon first as the only qualifier ever to win this title.
On the wettest of days, with the apocalyptic rain hammering down on the roof, it wasn’t always easy for the players to hear the ball on the strings, and that noise somehow added to the tension and drama beneath as Vekic came from a set down for a 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 victory. For the first time, Vekic is through to a Grand Slam semi-final; for the first time since 1999, a Croat has progressed into the last four of the ladies’ singles.Sun and Venus coming together, in what would have been a great tear in the lawn tennis universe?Not on this occasion, as instead it’s Vekic who could end up holding the Venus Rosewater Dish as the second successive unseeded champion at the tennis garden party.It’s not often that an unseeded woman making a first appearance in a Wimbledon quarter-final goes into that match as most people’s favourite.
But that was the unusual, potentially unsettling situation for the world No. 37, who was playing a qualifier with a triple-digit ranking who until this summer had never even won once on the lawns of the All England Club.It’s also rare for a woman to hit five double-faults when serving for a set, as happened to Vekic at 5-3 in the second set when looking to level this match. That would have been hard to take and Vekic could easily have unravelled from there. The tension could have all become too much.
But Vekic held it all together, breaking in the next game with a drop shot, and then ripping through the decider for the loss of just one game.
‘Astonish’ it says on the front of Sun’s Wimbledon whites and that’s what she has been doing in London this summer, including hitting 52 winners in beating Britain’s Emma Raducanu in the fourth round. But, for Sun, it all ended here.
“She really pushed me to my limits,” an emotional Vekic said in her on-court interview. “I felt like I was dying out there, the first two sets.”
In her first two Grand Slam quarter-finals – at the 2019 US Open and at last year’s Australian Open – Vekic didn’t win a set. (AP)


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