Donna Vekic almost quit tennis but now she's in the Wimbledon semifinals

Donna Vekic almost quit tennis but now she's in the Wimbledon semifinals


Donna Vekic of Croatia returns the ball to Lulu Sun of New Zealand during the Women's Singles quarterfinal tennis match on day nine of the 2024 Wimbledon Championships at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, south-west London on July 9, 2024.

Donna Vekic of Croatia returns the ball to Lulu Sun of New Zealand during the Women's Singles quarterfinal tennis match on day nine of the 2024 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, south-west London on July 9, 2024. | Photo credit: AFP

Donna Vekic has thought about quitting tennis many times, such as when she was struggling to get back to her best form after knee surgery in 2021.

Now she's glad she stuck with it.

The 28-year-old Croatian defeated qualifier Lulu Sun 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 at Wimbledon on July 9 to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal in her 43rd appearance at a major tournament.

“Those two years were very difficult. I didn't think I would ever get back to the level I had last year,” she said. “So now, reaching my best result at a Slam, I'm really proud of myself, the work I did, the work my team did. I'm very grateful to them for believing in me when I didn't.” She will face French Open runner-up Jasmine Paolini for a place in the final. Paolini, the No. 7 seed, defeated No. 19 Emma Navarro 6-2, 6-1 to become the first Italian woman to reach the semifinals at the All England Club.

“If you would have told me before Roland Garros that I would make the final there and the Wimbledon semifinals, I would have said you were crazy,” Paolini said with a hearty laugh. Until last week, Paolini was 0-3 in his career at the All England Club. And until July 9, Paolini was 0-3 against Navarro — who had beaten Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka earlier in the tournament.

“Today she was a completely different player than when I played her before. I felt in our previous meetings I was the aggressor, I was the one controlling the points, leading at the beginning of the points, then controlling the rallies as well,” Navarro said. “I felt the exact opposite today. I felt she was on top of me from the first point. It was a struggle to get past her.” Vekic said that before this year's French Open she wanted to give up. She lacked energy and didn't even want to practice.

He said, “Now I am in the semi-finals. I think that not only in tennis but also in life things can change very quickly.”

This is only the second time a female player representing Croatia has reached the Wimbledon semi-finals, having previously done so in 1999 by Mirjana Lucic.

Sun, 23, who played college tennis at the University of Texas, was playing in the grass-court tournament for the first time and is the first New Zealand player to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals in the Open era.

“I've played really great matches at Wimbledon,” said Sun, who defeated 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu on Centre Court in the fourth round. “I think the energy of the New Zealand fans and other fans is such an amazing moment for me that I definitely won't forget.” Sun said she struggled physically with cramps at the end of the second set and in the third set.

Vekic committed five double-faults while serving at 5-3 in the second set, allowing Sun to get a break, but Vekic hit back immediately to force a deciding set, which the veteran dominated.

“I was really angry at myself because I was only able to get broken when I was 5-5 up in the first set, then finally managed to break her in the second set, then got broken again. I don't know where these double-faults came from,” Vekic said. “I wasn't particularly nervous. I was just surprised that I was only hitting double-faults.”


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