Paolini stuns Rybakina to reach French Open semis

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Image caption: Paolini was competing in her maiden Grand Slam quarter-final

Jasmine Paolini stunned Elena Rybakina in a back-and-forth contest to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final at the French Open.
Italian 12th seed Paolini won 6-2 4-6 6-4 against the Kazakhstani fourth seed on a windy Court Philippe-Chatrier.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Paolini, who wrapped up the win after two hours and three minutes at Roland Garros.

She will face Russian Mirra Andreeva or Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in the semi-finals, with the pair playing later on Wednesday.
Paolini was competing in her first Grand Slam quarter-final following an impressive season which has seen the 28-year-old break into the top 15 for the first time and win her maiden WTA 1,000 title at the Dubai Tennis Championships in February.
But in former Wimbledon champion Rybakina, 24, she was facing the world number four and a player, alongside Sabalenka, who was favourite to challenge two-time defending champion Iga Swiatek for the title in Paris.
Paolini started brightly, showing no signs of nerves as she broke Rybakina in the opening game.
With Rybakina struggling for consistency, Paolini took advantage, serving her first three games to love with a whipping cross-court forehand winner.
Paolini broke again before seeing out the set 6-2 with Rybakina earning just a single point on the Italian’s serve.
Having dropped a set for the first time this year in Paris, Rybakina needed to respond and despite unforced errors punctuating her performance, she started to find more consistency with her strokes.
The pair traded multiple breaks before a key moment came at 5-4 as a Paolini backhand went long, giving Rybakina set point which she claimed with some good work at the net.
The deciding set saw both players hampered by the wind and struggling for consistency with unforced errors and breaks of serve.
At 4-4 a wild forehand into the net from Rybakina, which prompted a puzzled look from her coaching team, gave Paolini a 30-15 lead which she took advantage of, earning the chance to serve for the match.
A long backhand from Rybakina – her 48th unforced error – then gave Paolini victory for the biggest win of her career so far.
Who is Jasmine Paolini?
Paolini was born in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, a town in Tuscany, and made her debut on the WTA tour in 2015.
She has won two singles titles but has enjoyed her most productive year to date in 2024, reaching the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time at the Australian Open in January.
Her performance against Rybakina – who she beat for the second time in her nine-year career – won the backing of the Paris crowd, who cheered throughout her tenacious performance.
With Jannik Sinner also reaching the last four, there will be Italians in the semi-finals of both the men’s and women’s singles at a major for the first time in the Open era.
“It was a really tough match. I was a bit too emotional in the second set,” said Paolini.
“I said to myself, ‘OK, it is good. [Rybakina] is a great champion so it can happen’. I tried to hit every ball and it worked, I am here.
“I just tried to stay there every point, to forget what happened in the second set. I managed to come back and I just accept that and fight again. Thank you guys, thank you very much for cheering for me.”

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