Jasmine Paolini into French open semis

Paolini in French Open semi-final

News Sport

In a stunning upset at the French Open, Italy’s No.12 seed Jasmine Paolini edged out No.4 seed Elena Rybakina with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 victory in 2 hours and 3 minutes. The Italian is in her first Grand Slam/French Open semifinal.

Paolini will face 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva in today’s semifinal as she aims for her first Grand Slam final. In her Court Philippe-Chatrier debut, Paolini led twice by a break in the second set and again early in the deciding set. Despite a resilient comeback from Rybakina, it was Paolini who held her nerve in the tense finish.

At 28, Paolini becomes the fourth Italian woman to reach the Roland Garros semi-finals in the Open Era. She follows in the footsteps of 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone, 2012 finalist Sara Errani, and 2022 semi-finalist Martina Trevisan. Errani, who is currently partnering Paolini in the doubles event where they have reached the quarterfinals, cheered her on from the stands.

With a world ranking of 15, Paolini is now set to break into the Top 10 for the first time. Her performance at the French Open builds on her nomination for Most Improved Player in the 2023 WTA Awards.

How the match unfolded

In a gripping first set, Paolini dominated, winning her first 15 service points and dropping only one point behind her serve. She committed just one unforced error while keeping Rybakina at bay with a series of crowd-pleasing winners. Paolini had break points in every Rybakina service game, but the Kazakhstani’s serve allowed her to hold onto two games.

Paolini broke early in the second set for a 2-1 lead, but the momentum shifted as Rybakina’s game improved. Despite only seven unforced errors from Paolini compared to Rybakina’s 30, the Italian’s forehand began to falter, and Rybakina levelled the match with powerful hitting, including a decisive drive volley.

In the final set, after four consecutive breaks, Rybakina appeared to gain control with strong serving, leading 4-3. However, Paolini maintained her intensity, and Rybakina’s groundstrokes faltered in the last three games, culminating in 48 unforced errors to Paolini’s 22.

Players’ reflections

Reflecting on the match, Paolini expressed her resilience and focus in her on-court interview:

“It was a really tough match—I think I was a little too emotional in the first set. But then I said to myself, ‘OK, it’s good, she’s a great champion, so it can happen. Just fight, try to keep it there, try to hit every ball.’ And it worked, I’m here, I won!

“[The key was] to forget what happened in the second set because it can happen. It’s tennis. It’s normal. I managed to come back, to stay there and stay focused. Even if I had the break two times again. But it’s OK! I just accept that and fight again.”

Rybakina, acknowledged her struggle and recent health issues:

“I’m not, of course, really happy with the performance, but it is what it is. It’s tennis. Not every day you can play good. She played really well. She started much better. She was moving good. I started a bit slow, and she was aggressive from the first ball. Then I was just trying to find my game […] but in the end, it’s not the greatest day in the office.”

“I think in the end my legs were not there. No matter which conditions, if it’s slow or fast, I should have been moving better. As I was saying, I was struggling a little bit with the health issues past few weeks, so I think it’s just all together. But in the end no matter all these things, which were maybe happening outside of the court, I managed to get to the quarters. I think it’s pretty good result.”

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