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Donna Vekic: Became Wimbledon Semi-Finalist While Nearing Retirement

Donna Vekic’s emotions after her Wimbledon quarterfinals were palpable. She ended Lulu Sun’s historic run in three sets to advance to her first Grand Slam semifinal. Reaching the Wimbledon semifinals is an incredible feat for any player, but how close Vekic came to quitting the sport makes it all the more remarkable.

Donna Vekic: Became Wimbledon Semi-Finalist While Nearing Retirement

Vekic’s Tremendous Talent from a Young Age

Vekic’s early success on the WTA Tour raised expectations. The Croatian reached her first two finals at the Tashkent Open in September 2012 and the Birmingham Classic in June 2013, when she was just 16 years old. Her first WTA title came at the Malaysian Open in April 2014, where she defeated Dominika Cibulkova 5–7 7–5 7–6 in the final.

Vekic has been consistent in the following years, but has not reached the heights that many in the tennis world expected. As of the end of 2020, her best result at a Grand Slam was a single quarterfinal appearance at the 2019 US Open, where she lost to Belinda Bencic in straight sets. Vekic also won another title at the Nottingham Open, but finished second at four other tournaments.

Vekic Has Been At Risk Of Quitting Tennis More Than Once

Vekic underwent knee surgery after the 2021 Australian Open, which significantly impacted her level for several months. She failed to advance past the second round of a Grand Slam for nearly two years after that. During this time, Vekic regularly considered quitting tennis. Her struggles with form and fitness began to consume her, meaning the sport was no longer enjoyable.

The Croatian’s resilience was rewarded with a strong start to the 2023 season, reaching her second major quarterfinal at the 2023 Australian Open, where she lost to eventual champion Aryna Sabalenka. Other successes in the first half of 2023 included reaching the fourth round of a WTA 1000 event for the first time in Madrid and securing her fourth title in Monterrey.

Unfortunately, her struggles returned in the second half of 2023 and extended into the opening months of 2024. This led to Vekic threatening to quit the sport again ahead of this year’s French Open, with the four-time WTA champion feeling unmotivated and lacking the energy to continue.

But despite suffering a tough third-round defeat to Olga Danilovic in Paris, it pushed Vekic to keep going, and her reward for doing so came soon after.

Vekic Becomes Wimbledon Semi-Finalist

Vekic has had the ideal preparation for Wimbledon with a final appearance at the Bad Homburg Open. Despite that, she was not among the favourites for a deep run at SW19 before the event began. Things looked bleak for the Croatian after she lost the opening set of her first-round clash with Wang Xiyu. But coming back to win that match 3-6 6-3 6-4 was the start of a special run for Vekic.

After comfortably beating Erika Andreeva in the next round, Vekic’s next three victories came in a deciding set. She defeated Dayana Yastremska, Paula Badosa, who had beaten Daria Kasatkina in the previous round, and Lulu Sun in the quarterfinals. The 28-year-old has undoubtedly worked harder than any other player to make her first Grand Slam semifinal a reality.

Vekic’s next opponent is Jasmine Paolini, who beat Emma Navarro to reach the semi-finals. The Italian will be very tough to beat, but whatever the outcome, her run in London should give her renewed belief for the future.

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