Down a set and struggling in her first Wimbledon quarter-final against an inspired opponent, Elena Rybakina shrugged off her early nerves and recovered to bulldoze her way into her first grand slam semi-final, ending with a supreme serving performance to defeat Australia’s Alja Tomljanovic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 on No 1 Court.
By breaking new ground at Wimbledon, Rybakina, the 17th seed, is the first Kazakh player to reach a grand slam semi-final in either the men’s or women’s singles events. Rybakina was born in Russia and represented the country until 2018, when she decided to represent Kazakhstan after she was offered more support in her career.
Rybakina had previously reached one grand slam quarter-final, beating Serena Williams en route to what was previously a career-best result at the French Open last year. After the pandemic halted her initial rise up the rankings, a big grand slam run was inevitable for a player with such an enormous serve and explosive groundstrokes.
Early on in the match, Tomljanovic counterpunched extremely well against the destructive power of Rybakina. She broke serve early on by scrambling from side to side, anticipating well and soaking up immense pressure from Rybakina before throwing up two excellent winning lobs.
But Rybakina continued to attack and move forward and soon found her rhythm. As her enormous serve and forehand began to fire, Rybakina simply overpowered Tomljanovic from the baseline.
Rybakina finished with an outrageous 15 aces, winning 76% of points behind her first serve and averaging 109mph behind her first serve. Thirty-four winners were fired from her racket in the end, more than double Tomljanovic’s contribution.
In her first grand slam semi-final, Rybakina will meet the 2019 champion, Simona Halep, who defeated Amanda Anisimova 6-2, 6-4 to extend her winning streak at Wimbledon to 12 matches.