Wimbledon shocked as Simona Halep rolled in semi-final boilover

Simona Halp and Elena Rybakina are pictured side by side at Wimbledon.
Former Wimbledon champion Simona Halep was stopped in her tracks by Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina in the semi-final. Pictures: Getty Images

Simona Halep's near perfect run at Wimbledon came crashing down in the semi-final, when she was outclassed by big-serving Kazakhstan star Elena Rybakina.

The former Wimbledon champion hadn't dropped a single set in what was a powerhouse run to the semi-final, but it was clear from the off that Rybakina would pose a serious problem.

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Rybakina raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first set and it was immediately clear Halep had a fight on her hands against the hard-hitting 23-year-old.

Born in Moscow, Rybakina switched allegiances to Kazakhstan four years ago and hasn't looked back, ultimately scoring a dominant win over 2019 champion Halep, 6-3 6-3.

Tennis fans were stunned by the 17th seed's dominant performance, which set up an enticing women's final against Ons Jabeur.

Rybakina is the youngest player to reach the Wimbledon final since Garbiñe Muguruza in 2015.

Halep had won 21 consecutive sets at Wimbledon before running into the brick wall that was Rybakina, whose returning game forced three double faults in just one game from the former World No.1.

"I don't know how to describe it but it was really, really good," Rybakina said afterwards.

"Usually, of course, I have ups and downs and it comes from the nerves. But I think today I was mentally prepared and I did everything that I could and it was an amazing match."

Halep was heavily backed by the Wimbledon crowd, but simply found no way in against the crafty 17th seed.

After declaring she was in her best form since her 2019 triumph in London, Halep said her opponent deserved to win.

"Somehow I think I gave her the perfect ball to do her game, to feel comfortable on court," said Halep.

"But, as I said, all the credit to her. She deserved to win today with the way I played."

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Halep simply couldn't cope with the relentless aggression and thumping power of the 23-year-old, who'd knocked out Ajla Tomljanovic in the quarter-finals.

It was hard not to feel sympathy for Moscow-born Rybakina, who spent her news conference then answering questions about her background in the light of the All England Club having banned all Russians this year over the invasion of Ukraine.

"Most of the time I spend on tour. I practice in Slovakia between the tournaments. I had camps in Dubai. So I don't live anywhere, to be honest," she said wearily when pressed on her current Moscow connections, having already declared how much she wanted to see peace.

Though she no longer has any official affiliation with either Russia or the Russian Tennis Federation, and hasn't for years, she was still asked after the match if she felt Russian 'in her heart'.

Simona Halep said Elena Rybakina simply deserved to win their Wimbledon semi-final after a dominant performance. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
Simona Halep said Elena Rybakina simply deserved to win their Wimbledon semi-final after a dominant performance. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

“What does it mean for you to feel?” she replied.

“I mean, I’m playing tennis, so for me, I’m enjoying my time here. I feel for the players who couldn’t come here, but I’m just enjoying playing here on the biggest stage, enjoying my time and trying to do my best."

Despite her severing ties with Russia several years ago, her victory was nevertheless seized upon by Russian Tennis Federation head Shamil Tarpishchev, who claimed the nation would be cheering her on.

"(She) serves cool, plays flat, clear shots. Lena can win Wimbledon. Everything is deserved. It’s great that everything turned out this way, we will root for her,” he told a Russian website.

Rybakina was excited by the prospect of taking on Jabeur in the final.

“I think it’s just something to remember, and it’s going to be amazing," she said.

"Ons is a very good, tricky player and I think it’s going to be a great match.”

With Reuters

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