Wimbledon semi-final: Elina Svitolina v Marketa Vondrousova – live - 20 minutes read

Key eventsShow key events onlyPlease turn on JavaScript to use this featureRighto, thanks us done for today. Thanks all for your company – and join me again tomorrow for:Jannik Sinner [8] v Novak Djokovic [2] and Carlos Alcaraz [1] v Daniil Medvedev [3]But until then, peace out.Updated at 19.11 BSTAlso going on: potentially one of the great run-chases.Oh man, we’re being shown Svitolina’s press conference and, on the verge of tears, she says she hopes she can build on this, though is disappointed not to have played better today. That’s what’s on her mind now, so she’ll need a couple of days to reflect on everything that’s happened – she was trying to be really focused even after beating Swiatek, and after those two days will think about what she did right and wrong. She tries to balance responsibility with tension but sometimes it gets too much, though she doesn’t want to use that as an excuse for losing today. She’s had so many messages from so many people and she hopes they stick with her; I’m certain they will. She’s done a phenomenal job of bringing joy to her people.We also mustn’t forget that in both quarter and semi, Jabeur came back after losing the first set. This is a woman on a mission.And that was the big difference in this match, I think; for all Jabeur’s wizardy and speed about the court, the discipline and quality on the return was what got her into points and games, facilitating the rest of her game. And we see her now, walking up the stairs to be clapped by the members – she looks touched – and imagine the scenes if she takes this.Jabeur will be a big favourite for the final, but faces an entirely different challenge to the power-games of Kvitova, Rybakina and Saba. It might be that she’s just a better version of Vondrousova, understanding her use of angles, spins and speeds better than others, or it may be that the swinging lefty serve into the advantage court takes away her ability to land returns within a foot of the line.Ons, of course, is still on court, signing autographs and posing for photos with kids. What an inspiration she is.“You’d better keep speaking because I don’t know what to say,” says Ons, explaining how hard it was dealing with Saba’s serves. She’s been working a lot with her mental coach on keeping calm and sticking to the plan – she might be writing a book on that – and is very proud of herself because old her might’ve lost today and gone home already. She’s glad she dug deep and found the strength – she’s learning to turn good energy into bad, her anger at losing the first set, for example, and not sweating the stuff over which she has no control – Sabalenka can hit an ace or a winner at any time whatever she does. Finally, she watched the other semi, has lost twice to Marketa this year, and seeking revenge is working well for her so she’ll try for that again, hoping the crowd are with her. I think they might just be.Oh man, Sabalenka looks desolate as she leaves the court, and on the one hand, well she might – she’ll feel she should’ve won this in two – but on the other, she’ll know she’s been part of a special match, falling to a special performance from a special player and a special woman. She’ll be back.Ons Jabeur [6] beats Aryna Sabalenka [2] (5)6-7 6-4 6-3! She meets Markeeta Vondrousová in the Wimbledon final!*Jabeur (5)6-7 6-4 6-3 Sabalenka Down 15-0, Sabalenka gets a second serve to go at, but can’t get on top of it and when the next ball is there for her, she can’t punish that either. Jabeur is two points away … ands she guides a lovely backhand down the line that Sabalenka puts into the net, raising three match points! She’s already missed two, and trying to secure the third, a net cord leaves her kicking a ball that’s already bounced twice, then she sticks a forehand long! The pressure is immense as the crowd go wild; can she see it out? YES SHE CAN! An ace out wide, and Jabeur is into her second straight final, a sensational returning performance the difference in a sensational match. What a pair of absolute warriors!A hug at the net at the end of a pulsating semi-final. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The GuardianUpdated at 17.56 BSTJabeur (5)6-7 6-4 5-3 Sabalenka* It’s almost as though Jabeur had to smell the ill odour of defeat to really get herself going, but now the glorious stench of victory is inspiring her and she makes 0-15 with a backhand winner down the line. Sabalenka, though, isn’t going away even when a luscious controlled backhand return, inside out, makes 15-30; a booming forehand quickly levels up the game. AND SHE’S DONE IT AGAIN! Ons has returned like a demon today, a robot imbued with genius of humanity, and one close to the baseline raises match point … quickly snuffed out via ace. I am in absolute awe of these two, and another double hands Jabeur a second match point … but again, Sabalenka finds a monstrous serve, the return drifting wide. From there, Saba closes out, and Jabeur will have to serve for it. I can barely move my fingers and I’ve no dog in this fight, so I’m not sure how she’s going to handle the responsibility.*Jabeur (5)6-7 6-4 5-2 Sabalenka Jabeur has been sensational today, she really has. She played well in the first set but couldn’t take the big points; since finding herself on the cusp of defeat, she’s played the best tennis of her life, which is saying something, and a backhand onto the chalk secures a consolidation to 15, taking her to within a game of a second consecutive final! What does Sabalenka have left?Jabeur (5)6-7 6-4 4-2 Sabalenka* Another deep return from Jabeur crowds Sabalenka, who nets her riposte for 0-15, and one to the body sees a rushed larrup long; 0-30, and half a chance. Jabeur, though, can’t control her next backhand, and a biog serve then facilitates a clean-up forehand for 30-all. Both players have shown massive mental strength in this match, trusting themselves to keep doping what they do best even if it’s high-risk, and we wind up at deuce following good and bad forehands from Sabalenka. AND HAVE A LOOK! The length of Jabeur’s returns has been excellent since about halfway through set two, and another pearler, taken early, elicits an error that means break point; Sabalenka, though, keeps her nerve, maintaining power even when hitting a second serve to make deuce with a forehand winner. T, BUT WHAT’S THIS! A dreadful backhand, running in to the net, is sent unnecessarily wide … but again, break point down, Sabalenka stays true to herself, saving the situation with a serve and forehands. This is now the match we hoped it’d be, and when Sabalenka goes long on the backhand, Jabeur has another chance to take a commanding lead. She finds the return she needs too, again not trying to do loads but landing it deep and nasty; it gets her into rally, Sabalenka can’t reverse control, and when she goes long Jabeur is two games from the final! That was not only the longest game of the match but one of the best of the tournament so far, and might it be decisive? Since she trailed 2-4 in set two, Jabeur has won eight games of 10.*Jabeur (5)6-7 6-4 3-2 Sabalenka Sabalenka tries to engage in a battle of wits, coming in behind a slice; yeah, good luck with that, old mate. Jabeur slices a winner down the line, an ace makes 40-0 … but then Sabalenka hits her way back into the game, a disconcerting forehand giving her 40-30. But a serve down the middle is good enough, and Jabeur re-establishes her advantage.Jabeur (5)6-7 6-4 2-2 Sabalenka* A terrific return from Jabeur sets her up for a forehand with much of the court open, but lost in the supermarket, she can’t decide what to do with it, so spanks wide. Sabalenka, though, nets a forehand for 15-all … then punishes a redemptive serve down the T. Jabeur, though, makes 30-all with a backhand down the line and into the corner that Sabalenka can’t get back and as in set one, she’s the better player; can she make it count? She cannot, Sabalenka closing out, and this is beginning to look like a superbreaker situation.*Jabeur (5)6-7 6-4 2-1 Sabalenka My daughter returns from school and I’ve to answer the door, so I miss what’s a remarkably quick game even for Jabeur. But it’s another hold to love, and both players are turning up the aggression.Updated at 17.10 BSTJabeur (5)6-7 6-4 1-1 Sabalenka* Old Sabalenka might’ve shrank at this point, but new Sabalenka holds to love and is in the set.*Jabeur (5)6-7 6-4 1-0 Sabalenka It must be said, Sabalenka didn’t bottle that; she might’ve got tight on a point or two, but her losing that set took Jabeur flinging some serious heat. And Jabeur maintains her level at the start of set three, holding to 15. I’ve not a scooby who’s going to win this.Jabeur (5)6-7 6-4 Sabalenka* A brilliant return on the stretch allows Jabeur to cream a backhand winner for 15-all, and again, the pressure on Sabalenka increases. So she responds with a majestic second serve out wide, a forehand into the corner completing its work, only to slip backing away from a backhand, netting for 30-all. AND HAVE A LOOK! A gigantic serve down the T looks to have set up the rally, but then she decelerates through a backhand and now, where once she was a point away from 5-3, is now a point away from one set-all! And there it is! Jabeur drags a backhand return down the line, and we’ve got ourselves the decider we deserve! Well done Ons Jabeur! This is going to be special!Ons Jabeur races for a shot. Photograph: undefined/The GuardianUpdated at 17.37 BST*Jabeur (5)6-7 5-4 Sabalenka Saba, though, is solid, refusing to sulk after surrendering what looked to be a match-clinching advantage to make 0-30 with a fine backhand winner cross-court. But Ons responds, her phattest serve of the day giving her 30-all, before a leaping backhand volley goes just wide; break point Sabalenka … who does all the hard work, clambering into the rally with a monstrous forehand, only to go long with another! The crowd are right behind Jabeur here, partly because she’s herself and partly because they’ll want to see another set (of tennis), going wild when she closes out for 5-4! We are cooking now!Jabeur (5)6-7 4-4 Sabalenka* An eighth ace of the match gives Sabalenka 15-0, but a terrific return onto the tootsies levels the game. I can’t lie, I’m Jabeur, at this stage I’m chatting trash to try and distract, but this version of Sabalenka is a different animal, and when Ons nets for 15-30, the look on her kipper suggests she’s struggling to see a way. A backhand down the line, though, elicits a squash shot into the net, and she’s well in the next rally – the best of the match, both players digging them out and cleansing them back, only for Sabalenka to finish it by running in to caress a dainty pick-up down the line for a winner. More superb play from Ons, though, who’s grown again – a return onto the line followed by a drop – makes deuce, and up ratchets the tension. This gives us another stupendous rally – the kind of tennis we hoped for throughout – both players showing the full gamut of their touch and power before Jabeur nets a forehand on the run. Sabalenka, though, can’t close out, and soon finds herself down advantage, refusing to subdue her power … but when she bangs a forehand into the net, Jabeur has her break back! That was a fantastic game, and we might just be at that elusive point where both players are playing their best.*Jabeur (5)6-7 3-4 Sabalenka The crowd try and rouse Jabeur when she improvises a French cricket half-volley and eventually wins the net exchange for 30-0. From there, she serves out for 4-3, but is running out of chances to break and right now, Sabalenka looks impregnable.Jabeur (5)6-7 2-4 Sabalenka* This match hasn’t quite ignited and now it might soon be over, Sabalenka making it seven points on the spin with a terrifying ace down the T. Jabeur then swipes a wild backhand return wide, and she needs something, fast. Sabalenka is more than capable of getting tight with her first Wimbledon final in sight, but at this stage, it doesn’t look likely.*Jabeur (5)6-7 2-3 Sabalenka Sabalenka reads a drop and, with Jabeur expecting line, goes cross with a gentle winner. She’s the one bossing this now, and a netted backhand followed by another – incited by a fine return onto the baseline – raises three break points, a tame double meaning only one is required! That might just be the match there!Jabeur (5)6-7 2-2 Sabalenka* Jabeur asks her box for guidance on where to receive as a terrific serve sends her haring out wide to no avail. She might, though, look to do more on the second delivery, which she can attack rather than chip in order to get into the point … and as I type that she does it, a big backhand making 30-15, then Sabalenka slices into the net and ups the pressure on herself. Jabeur is well in the next rally too, working a chance to go for a winner … but banging a flat backhand down the line, squeals when it thunks into the net. And from there, a perfect point from Sabalenka, crowned with a lovely disguised drop, gets her back in terms in set two.*Jabeur (5)6-7 2-1 Sabalenka Mac suggests that Jabeur take the ball a little earlier, rushing Sabalenka, and I wonder if she might try and move her about a little more. But as in set one, she’s holding easily enough, and my guess is she keeps things the same because she’s only behind because of a poor couple of points in the breaker.Jabeur (5)6-7 1-1 Sabalenka* In yesterday’s third set, Rybakina was 28% on first serves which, for all Jabeur’s good and more varied play, was probably the aspect which decided the match.Sabalenka, though, won’t do that at this stage – she might if she gets tight with the line in sight, but not yet – and she holds easily to 15.*Jabeur (5)6-7 1-0 Sabalenka Jabeur, of course, lost yesterday’s first set 7-6 to Rybakina, and won’t panic to be behind here – she knows she’s played the better tennis so far. But failure to take chances left her vulnerable to the vicissitudes of a breaker, so she has to start again now, holding to 30.Jabeur (5)6-7 Sabalenka Jabeur saves the first set point with a big serve and clean-up forehand, then on the Sabalenka serve again tries to block back a return to get in the rally, except this time she puts a little too much on it, the ball drops long, and after exactly an hour of absorbing, intense play, that’s the difference between these two giants.Aryna Sabalenka celebrates taking the first set. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The GuardianUpdated at 16.26 BST*Jabeur 6-6 Sabalenka (4-6) OH MY DAYS! Just when Sabalenka thinks she’s sorted immediate retrieval with an inside-out backhand into the corner, Jabeur coaxes a stunning riposte, down the line and almost off the ground, for the shot of the match so far. But Ons then sends a backhand long, snuffing out her own mini-break, and when she nets a backhand at 4-5, in response to another murderous strike from Sabalenka, she’s two set points down!*Jabeur 6-6 Sabalenka (3-2) Sabalenka wins the first point on serve, then Jabeur sends an ace down the middle and escapes when a weak second delivery is returned into the net. It’s so hard to split these two, Sabalenka creaming a forehand winner for 2-2 … before ceding the mini-break with a double!*Jabeur 6-6 Sabalenka Up 30-15, Jabeur, finds a lush forehand, backing away to send it cross-court and just inside the sideline. From there, she closes out, and here comes that breaker!Jabeur 5-6 Sabalenka* At 30-15, Sabalenka punishes an ace down the T, and I remember that a friend of mine used to say “Punish it” when he wanted you to finish a drink; yes, he did play rugby. Saba secures a straightforward hold, forcing Jabeur to serve for a breaker.🇨🇿 Marketa Vondrousova (42)🇺🇸 Serena Williams (181)Vondrousova is the second-lowest ranked player to reach the ladies' singles final at #Wimbledon since the WTA Rankings were introduced pic.twitter.com/x4VFlQpc69— Wimbledon () July 13, 2023
*Jabeur 5-5 Sabalenka Sabalenka howls when she sticks a second-serve return into the net – she considered that a chance, but it was a crafty slider that was hard to attack with power. It gives Jabeur 15-0, and from there she secures another comfy hold. She’s still playing the better tennis, but this set will now be decided by a point or two here and there, and against as fearsome a hitter as Sabalenka, that’s a problem.Jabeur 4-5 Sabalenka* At 30-15, a forehand slice return gets Jabeur into the rally and prompts Sabalenka to go long … so she retorts with an ace. We end up at deuce though, and a double on advantage increases the tension … in my mind at least, because from there, Sabalenka turns up the power to clinch the game and Jabeur must now aerve to stay in the set.*Jabeur 4-4 Sabalenka If feels like we’re settling for a tiebreak now, Jabeur easily taking a net exchange for 40-0. So Sabalenka disburses a pair of vaporising backhands for 40-15, then another for 40-30, while Mac reminds us that in Paris, only Alcaraz and Cerundolo hit bigger forehands than her on average. But with pressure increasing, Jabeur finds a service winner, and the players are cancelling each other out for now.Jabeur 3-4 Sabalenka* Sabalenka could use an easy hold and she gets one, to love. Her first serve is such a weapon, and she’s giving her second plenty too.*Jabeur 3-3 Sabalenka A fine lob from Sabalenka gives her 0-15, but at 30-15 she’s wrongfooted by a glorious backhand cross-court and Jabeur, in charge of this match without anything to show for it, holds to 30.Jabeur 2-3 Sabalenka* Now then. At 15-all, Jabeur plays a gorgeous slice from behind her that draws Sabalenka to the net … so she can be passed with a whipped forehand cross-court. And when Saba goes long and wide on a backhand down the line, Ons, who’s the better player currently, has two break points. The first is quickly yanked back via gibongous serve and clean-up forehand … whereas the second needs a further drop to secure confiscation. Sabalenka then makes advantage with an ace, but then Jabeur again chips her return to get into the point, this time taking it with a forehand winner. From there, we go backwards and forwards to and from deuce before, after nine or so minutes, Sabalenka punishes a backhand winner down the line to clinch her hold – but she’s finding them harder to achieve than Jabeur.*Jabeur 2-2 Sabalenka “That’s a beautiful stroke,” says the man with the greatest hands tennis has ever seen, Mac purring over a gorgeous backhand from Sabalenka that makes 15-all. But Jabeur is playing with suck confidence, taking a forehand out of the air for 30-15 when she might’ve let it bounce and securing the game with a booming serve.Jabeur 1-2 Sabalenka* Ooooh yeah! A gorgeous wrongfooting backhand from Jabeur breaks the sideline for 0-15, but Sabalenka quickly wins two pints and sends down a brutal serve … only to find herself passed at the net a shot later! Ons is into this now! And when she chips a return to get into the next point, Saba goes wide on the backhand to hand over a first break point, which she saves with one colossal serve and two juddering groundstrokes, one off each flank, racket brandished like nunchucks. From there, it takes a while for her to secure her hold, but eventually she does, a big backhand and serve doing the business.Aryna Sabalenka swipes a forehand. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The GuardianUpdated at 16.02 BST*Jabeur 1-1 Sabalenka At 15-0, Jabeur nets a forehand then offers a chance with a weak second serve, but Sabalenka thwacks a backhand down the line into the tape; in comms, Mac notes the reduced pace too, saying she’ll not want to offer to many looks at that delivery. Jabeur then plays a good forehand to the corner only to net her half-volley, then here comes another second serve … and Sabalenka sticks her return onto the baseline, Jabeur unable to respond. Mac suggests she take a bit of pace off the first go to make sure she lands it, but break point down, she rustles up a hold, and already this is shaping up, the power and artistry on another level to that on show in our first tussle.Jabeur 0-1 Sabalenka* A nice, confident start from Sabalenka, who holds to love. She’s no longer someone you might catch early doors, and that’s a confidence issue not a skill issue.Right, we’re good to go – Sabalenka to serve.Our players are with us, knocking up.Something else I love about these two: how much they love competing. Sounds simple because who doesn’t like playing sport, especially if you’re amazing at it, but on court the pressure is such that it can be hard to have fun, and the slog is such that it cab become like any other job. But both Jabeur and Sabalenka radiate passion, which suffuses everything they do, and if both bring it today we’re in for an absolute treat.Jabeur v Sabalenka, then. I can’t lie, I absolutely adore both of these, the fragility of Sabalenka’s power and fire of Jabeur’s desire. The question is not dissimilar to yesterday’s: can Ons get inside the hitting to dictate, or will Saba hit through her? I think Saba has more variety of angle than Rybakina does, but if she’s put under similar pressure, she’ll have to fight herself to deliver it.Vondrousova, though, played a superb match, her variation of speed, spin, angle and trajectory asking questions to which Svitolina had no answers. To miss as much time as she did and come back to do this evidences a serious devotion; as her tatt says, “No rain, no flowers”.Back to Svitolina, though, what an effort from her. She’s given us everything and remains one of the heroes of 2023, an example to us all of dignity, integrity, principle and skill. She’s a far better player now than before, and given more time, there’s no reason we shouldn’t see her improve even more.Coming up next: Ons Jabeur [6] v Aryna Sabalenka [2].

Source: The Guardian

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