Krejcikova roars past Ostapenko in battle of French Open champs

The Czech blunts the Latvian’s power-packed game to make it to the last four for the first time at the grasscourt Major; Musetti overcomes Fritz’s challenge to reach his first Slam semifinal while Djokovic progresses without hitting a ball

Published - July 11, 2024 12:51 am IST - London

Moving closer: Krejcikova, who entered the semifinal, will look to go the distance. | Photo: Getty Images

Moving closer: Krejcikova, who entered the semifinal, will look to go the distance. | Photo: Getty Images

Jelena Ostapenko hits a tennis ball as if there is no tomorrow. When she won the Roland-Garros singles title in 2017, she struck a whopping 54 winners but made as many errors on the slow and languid Parisian clay.

The thrill-a-minute high-risk strategy has since carried her to quarterfinals or better at each of the other three Slams. But on Wednesday, Barbora Krejcikova’s controlled aggression proved the perfect riposte as the Czech triumphed 6-4, 7-6(4) to enter her maiden Wimbledon singles semifinal.

Delightful day

It was a sweet result for Krejcikova, who, after reaching the 2024 Australian Open quarters, spent five months battling injuries and winning just three matches.

She will now play 2022 champion Elena Rybakina — who blasted past Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-2 — for a spot in the final.

“I don’t have any words,” Krejcikova said later.

“I had decided that I was going to leave everything I had on the court and I am happy I did it. It’s a great moment in my career.”

The 28-year-old was at her best in the opening set. It was the first day in many when play on the show courts didn’t start with roofs closed. Soon Wimbledon park was bathed in sunlight and by the time the spectators basked a bit outdoors and settled into their seats, Krejcikova had raced to a 3-1 lead. She would soon pocket the set, winning 20 of her 23 service points and all 12 in her last three holds.

Not distracted

The Latvian’s power and panache didn’t bother her. Neither was she distracted by Ostapenko’s return stance, wherein the latter pranced like a football goalkeeper ahead of a spot-kick routine. With a high backswing, Krejcikova caressed the ball, into zones from where Ostapenko could do nothing.

But in the second set, Krejcikova’s game regressed to the mean and Ostapenko’s did not lift. What ensued was a scrap. The pair traded breaks and fought each other to a standstill to 4-4.

Krejcikova struggled with her timing and also seemed to lose her footing at the baseline quite a few times.

The 2021 French Open champion even fluffed the opportunity to serve out the match after breaking Ostapenko to 5-4.

However, she summoned her best game just in time, holding to love to take the set into a tie-break and running up a 6-3 lead once there. She eventually clinched the contest on her second match-point when Ostapenko sent a forehand return long.

In about four hours after Krejcikova’s moment under the sun, it was the turn of Lorenzo Musetti to experience the warmth as he ousted American Taylor Fritz 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 to make his first Major semifinal.

The Italian, seeded 25th, continued his rich form on grass — final at Queen’s Club and semifinals in Stuttgart — to set up a clash against second seed and seven-time champion Novak Djokovic.

The Serbian progressed after the World No. 9 from Australia, Alex de Minaur, withdrew because of the hip injury he suffered in the closing stages of his fourth-round victory over Arthur Fils.

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