Paolini stuns Rybakina to reach first grand slam semi-final

By Sports Desk June 05, 2024

Elena Rybakina suffered a stunning quarter-final exit from the French Open on Wednesday, an error-strewn performance being punished by Italy's Jasmine Paolini.

World number four Rybakina had been tipped to challenge Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka for the Roland Garros crown, but she only had herself to blame as her opponent reached her first career grand slam semi-final with a 6-2 4-6 6-4 victory.

The Kazakhstani did not look right from the get-go, committing a huge 16 unforced errors to Paolini's one in the opening set, during which the Italian only lost one point on her own serve.

It was more of the same at the start of the second set as a double fault allowed Paolini to clinch an early break with a ferocious cross-court backhand. 

Rybakina did steady the ship by breaking straight back, and she seemed to be in the ascendency when she kicked on to take the second set with two further breaks.

However, errors crept back into her game in a decider that began with four straight breaks of serve. Paolini grew in confidence again, breaking again then getting through a nervy final service game, a long forehand from Rybakina on match point summing up her performance.

Data Debrief: Late bloomer Paolini savours greatest win

Paolini's victory made her just the fifth player this century to make her first grand slam quarter-final at Roland Garros while aged 28 or older, after Elena Likhovtseva (2005), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (2021) and fellow Italians Francesca Schiavone (2010) and Martina Trevisan (2022).

She will face either Mirra Andreeva or Sabalenka in the last four. With Jannik Sinner also flying the flag, this year's French Open will be the first in the Open Era to feature Italian semi-finalists in both the men's and women's draws.

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