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Donna Vekic nearly quit tennis but now she’s in Wimbledon’s semifinals

Storm Sanders was Australia’s hero after she won the first singles rubber before returning for the deciding doubles match alongside 38-year-old Samantha Stosur.

Croatia’s Donna Vekic returns the ball to New Zealand’s Lulu Sun during their women’s singles quarter-finals tennis match on the ninth day of the 2024 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 9, 2024.
| Photo Credit: AFP

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 July 9.

“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 July 9, 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,” Navarro said. “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.” 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…

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