Djokovic gets free pass to Wimbledon semi-finals as Rybakina cruises – Sport

LONDON: Novak Djokovic progressed to a record-equalling 13th Wimbledon semi-final without hitting a ball on Wednesday after Alex de Minaur pulled out injured as former champion Elena Rybakina eased through.

Australian ninth seed De Minaur, 25, announced shortly after midday at the All England Club that he was “devastated to pull out due to a hip injury”.

It means Djokovic has now equalled Roger Federer’s men’s record of 13 semi-final appearances at Wimbledon as he closes on the Swiss great’s mark of eight singles titles.

The 37-year-old Serbian is also through to a record-extending 49th men’s Grand Slam semi-final where he will face Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti.

De Minaur, who beat Djokovic at the United Cup in January, said: “It’s no secret that this would have been the biggest match of my career but it’s a unique injury.

“I woke up this morning wanting to feel some sort of miracle, but there was a high risk of making the injury worse if I stepped on court.

“One stretch, one slide could take this from a three to six weeks’ injury to four months out.”

Djokovic will play 25th seed Musetti for a place in Sunday’s showpiece match after the Italian beat US 13th seed Taylor Fritz 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.

The world number two — who had knee surgery last month — does not have a title to his name this year and is still seeking a first victory against a fellow top-10 player.

But a historic 25th Grand Slam triumph is coming into sharp focus for Djokovic, who demolished Holger Rune in straight sets in the fourth round.

The Serb has a 5-1 winning record over 22-year-old Musetti, including a come-from-behind five-set victory at the French Open last month.

“Djokovic knows the stadiums here better than me,” admitted the Italian. “He’s a legend everywhere and has done unthinkable things. We’ve played lots of times and I expect a huge fight.

“It’s the toughest challenge in tennis but I am an ambitious guy and I like to be challenged. I will give 100 per cent.”

In early action on Wednesday, 2022 champion Rybakina barely broke sweat in swatting aside last year’s semi-finalist Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-2 in 61 minutes.

She will face Barbora Krejcikova for a place in Saturday’s final after the Czech 31st seed came out on top against Jelena Ostapenko in a battle of former French Open champions.

Russian-born Rybakina, now 19-2 in main-draw matches at Wimbledon, broke the Ukrainian 21st seed four times in the match on Centre Court.

The fourth seed was broken in the first game in front of the watching Queen Camilla but hit back straight away and barely put a foot wrong after that.

The 25-year-old, who crunched 28 winners to Svitolina’s eight, said she had “amazing memories” from 2022 but does not like the favourite tag.

“I have an aggressive style of game, I have a huge serve so it’s a big advantage,” she said.

Krejcikova took the first set against Latvian 13th seed Ostapenko with a single break on Court No. 1.

Ostapenko, the 2018 Wimbledon semi-finalist, finally broke through in the fourth game of the second set for a 3-1 lead and backed it up with a hold.

But she went dramatically off the boil as Krejcikova reeled off the next four games for a 5-4 lead.

Ostapenko clung on to break the Czech in the 10th game but 2021 French Open champion Krejcikova played the more composed tie-break to seal the victory.

“I told myself that I’m going to leave here everything I have and I’m really happy that I did and it’s a great moment for me,” said Krejcikova.

Victory for the 28-year-old comes after a miserable run in 2024, with her season marred by injury and illness.

Her run to the Birmingham quarter-final last month allowed her to celebrate match wins for the first time since Abu Dhabi in February.

“It was a very, very difficult period. It was actually super difficult even before this tournament,” she said.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2024

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