London, July 10: Donna Vekic had thought a couple of times about quitting tennis, like when she struggled to get back to her best after knee surgery in 2021. Now she's happy she stuck with it. The 28-year-old Croatian reached her first Grand Slam semifinal in her 43rd appearance at a major tournament by beating qualifier Lulu Sun 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 at Wimbledon on Tuesday. Donna Vekic Reaches First Grand Slam Semifinal in Comeback Win Over Lulu Sun at Wimbledon 2024.

“Those couple of years were very tough. I didn't think I was ever going to come back to the level that I even had last year,” she said. “So this now, reaching my best result ever at a Slam, I'm really proud of myself, of the work that I've done, of the work that my team has done. I'm very thankful to them for believing in me when I didn't.”

She will face French Open runner-up Jasmine Paolini for a spot in the final. Paolini, the No. 7 seed, beat 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 had told me before Roland Garros that I would get to the final there and the Wimbledon semifinals,” Paolini said with a hearty laugh, “I would have said you were crazy.”

Until last week, Paolini was 0-3 for her career at the All England Club. And until Tuesday, Paolini was 0-3 against Navarro — who dismissed Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka earlier in the tournament.

“She was a totally different player today than when I played her in the past. I felt like in our previous meetings I was the aggressor, I was the one controlling points, getting ahead at the beginning of points, then controlling the rallies, too, I felt just the opposite of that today. I felt like she was just on top of me from the very first point. Struggled to push back against that.” Navarro said.

Before the French Open this year, Vekic said, she wanted to give up. She lacked energy and didn't even want to practice.

“Now I'm in the semifinals. I think not just in tennis, in life things can turn pretty fast,” she said.

It's only the second time a woman representing Croatia has reached the Wimbledon semifinals, after Mirjana Lucic in 1999. The 23-year-old Sun, who played college tennis at the University of Texas, was making her debut at the grass-court tournament and is the first player from New Zealand to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals in the Open era.

“I've had really great matches here at Wimbledon,” said Sun, who beat 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu on Centre Court in the fourth round. “I think just energy from New Zealand fans and other fans, as well, is such a surreal moment for me that I definitely won't forget.”

Sun said she struggled physically with cramping toward the end of the second set and in the third. Serving for the second set at 5-3, Vekic committed five double-faults to help Sun break, but Vekic broke right back to force a deciding set, which the veteran player dominated. Wimbledon 2024: Jasmine Paolini Reaches Semifinals, Makes History for Italy Following Win Over Emma Navarro.

“I was so angry at myself because even to get broken in the first set at 5-all, then finally managed to break her in the second set, then get broken. I don't know where those double-faults came from,” Vekic said. “I wasn't particularly nervous. I was surprised that I was just hitting double-faults.”

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