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Djokovic gets free pass to Wimbledon semifinals as Rybakina cruises

By AFP - Jul 11,2024 - Last updated at Jul 11,2024

US player Taylor Fritz returns against Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti during their men’s singles quarter-finals tennis match on the tenth day of the 2024 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on Wednesday (AFP photo)

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 semifinal 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 semifinal.

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.

“One stretch, one slide could take this from a three to six weeks’ injury to four months out.”

Djokovic will play Italian 25th seed Lorenzo Musetti for a place in Sunday’s showpiece match.

The World No.2 — who had knee surgery last month — does not have a title to his name this year and is still seeking a first victory against a fellow top-10 player.

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.

 

Ruthless Rybakina 

 

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.

“I told myself that I’m going to leave here everything I have and I’m really happy that I did and it’s a great moment for me,” said Krejcikova.

“It’s an unbelievable moment that I’m experiencing right now in my tennis career.”

Victory for the 28-year-old Krejcikova comes after a miserable run in 2024, with her season marred by injury and illness.

Her run to the Birmingham quarter-final last month allowed her to celebrate match wins for the first time since Abu Dhabi in February.

“It was a very, very difficult period. It was actually super difficult even before this tournament. I really want to thank my team that is there today,” she Krejcikova.

Fritz produced a stunning performance to come back against fourth seed Alexander Zverev in the fourth round, winning in five sets.

The American has form on grass, winning eight straight matches dating back to the start of the Eastbourne International last month.

 

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