Jasmine Paolini reaches French Open semifinals by beating Elena Rybakina

PARIS — Jasmine Paolini reached the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career by beating No. 4 seed Elena Rybakina 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 at the French Open on Wednesday.

The 12th-seeded Paolini, a 28-year-old from Italy, exited in the first or second round in each of the first 16 Grand Slam appearances in her career, until making it to the fourth round of the Australian Open in January.

Now she’s gone two steps further by eliminating the 2022 Wimbledon champion.

Paolini will meet No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka or unseeded 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva on Thursday for a berth in the title match.

The other semifinal will be No. 1 Iga Swiatek against No. 3 Coco Gauff.

Paolini finished with 22 unforced errors, fewer than half of Rybakina’s 48. And Paolini accumulated seven breaks against the big-serving Rybakina, who hit 10 aces.

The first set could not have gone better for Paolini — or worse for Rybakina.

Paolini took the first 15 points she served, and 16 of 17 overall. She grabbed 16 of 32 points Rybakina served.

And while Paolini deserved credit for playing cleanly and showing zero signs of being overwhelmed by the stage or the moment, Rybakina was way off. By set’s end, Rybakina had made 16 unforced errors — 15 more than Paolini.

In the second, Paolini twice went up by a break, including for a 4-3 lead. When she led 40-15 in the next game, Paolini was one point from going up 5-3 and being a game away from by far the biggest victory of her career.

But Rybakina steadied herself, broke there and ran through the last three games to force a third set.

Again, Paolini kept moving in front, then getting reeled back in. She was up a break in the last set at 1-0, then at 2-1, and was a point from going up 3-1. Rybakina would not fade and kept breaking back.

But Paolini broke one last time for a 5-4 edge, then served out the victory and let out a yell when Rybakina sent a backhand long.

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