Jasmine Paolini outclasses Emma Navarro to reach first Wimbledon semi

Jasmine Paolini

The pain didn't stick around for too long. Following Jannik Sinner's loss to Daniil Medvedev, the Italian fans at Centre Court were soon celebrating once more when Jasmine Paolini beat Emma Navarro 6-1, 6-2 to become the first Italian woman to reach a Wimbledon semi-final. It's quite an achievement for a 28-year-old who had never won a match on grass until this year.

This tournament marked the first occasion in four tries that Paolini advanced beyond the initial round. She had been defeated by her American opponent in three previous encounters within the past nine months.

"Playing against her was a real challenge, mentally," Paolini stated. She will now compete against Donna Vekic in the semi-final, who defeated Lulu Sun. "I admire her style of play. In our last three matches, I found it difficult to compete with her. I had to remind myself that this match was different, on a different surface, and so I needed to play aggressively. I believe I performed exceptionally well in this match."

If the Sinner-Medvedev game was a long and dramatic movie, this one was more like a quick and entertaining cartoon. Paolini quickly won the first set in less than 30 minutes, and then wrapped up the game in just 30 minutes more. Her opponent from America struggled to keep up, only holding her serve twice throughout the match. Paolini dominated the court, especially at the net, where she won 16 points and only lost one.

Both women came to the tournament with impressive performances from the French Open last month, but Paolini is currently in top form. She achieved a career milestone by winning her second singles title in Dubai back in February. Additionally, she reached her first grand slam final at Roland Garros and finished as runner-up in the women's doubles event.

In this match, her ability to cover the court with skillful moves was very noticeable. Despite being shorter than her opponent by three inches, she appeared to have a long reach. She achieved 19 successful shots compared to Navarro's six, and there was no rally that lasted longer than the 15-shot rally that kicked off the game.

Interestingly, Paolini found herself facing off against another wealthy American heiress for the second time in two days. The day before, she and Sara Errani were defeated by Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff in the women's doubles round. Pegula is the sole tennis player with a higher net worth than Navarro, whose father not only sponsors her sports gear but also the Charleston Open tournament in their hometown.

Navarro was raised in a city in South Carolina that is full of history, both good and bad, and is known for being a luxurious place to live for the very wealthy. Her father, Ben, owns a financial company that focuses on credit cards and collecting debt, and he has purchased many parts of the city, including the large stadium where his daughter played her first WTA match in 2019. Tennis has typically been a sport for the wealthy, but now it seems to be becoming even more exclusive with the rise of "nepo babies" in the sport.

Navarro is showing she has the skills and experience despite doubts. She achieved her first tour title in Hobart in January and made it to the fourth round of the French Open recently. Starting the year ranked 149th, she is now No 17 and her performance in this match will push her to a new career peak.

This game started out with a lot of energy. Both players moved quickly between points, Navarro quickly hitting the balls as they came her way. The American player got an early lead at 1-1, taking advantage of Paolini's second serve and hitting a strong forehand shot.

However, Paolini won the following game effortlessly, causing Navarro to become unsettled by the Italian's consistent speed. As a result, Navarro's shots became rushed and under pressure. She ended up losing four consecutive games, with her backhand shots becoming erratic.

She struggled to remain calm during the second set, and demonstrated some moments of intensity. A few mistakes, like hitting a backhand volley too soon, hinted that Paolini may have been too anxious. There was a chance for Navarro to make a comeback at 3-1, when Paolini made a long shot at 30-30.

However, Navarro was unable to convert the fourth out of five chances she had to break in the match. After that, Paolini picked up the pace and Navarro only managed to win two more points. This was a stark contrast to her strong performance in the previous round against Gauff, who she is set to team up with in doubles at the upcoming Paris Olympics.

"I played against a very strong opponent today who played exceptionally well and didn't make any mistakes," Navarro said with admiration of Paolini. "She was a completely different player today ... she dominated me from the very beginning."

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