LONDON, Great Britain – Magdalena Rybarikova’s Cinderella story continued at Wimbledon on Tuesday, as she ousted No.24 seed CoCo Vandeweghe in the quarterfinals, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the final four at a Grand Slam for the very first time.
“Obviously I was dreaming about it since I was a little kid, to be semifinal in the Wimbledon. I think all the players are dreaming about this to happen,” Rybarikova reflected after the match. “Before the match, I was still saying to myself, ‘It’s great to be quarterfinal, just be relaxed, just play your game, then we’ll see what’s going to happen.’
“Even when I have match points, I was all the time thinking the same, you know. Just to be relaxed, just to be relaxed. I was really not that nervous. I was very surprised because I was always thinking before when I was home, like, how nervous I would be when I was watching the other players to have match points and to get into the semifinal.
“I was really not that nervous. Maybe that’s why I also made it.”
The World No.87 came into the tournament as perhaps the most in-form player of the grass court season – boasting a _ record on the lawns with two titles on the ITF Circuit on the surface – after returning from a lengthy injury layoff and dipping outside the world’s top 400 in the spring.
Nonetheless, she’s faced five opponents ranked ahead of her during this fortnight at Wimbledon, and beaten them all without the loss of a set to break new ground at a Grand Slam.
The Slovak becomes the 17th consecutive first-time Grand Slam semifinalist, and is the first from her country to reach the last four at the All-England Club after both Dominika Cibulkova and Daniela Hantuchova fell at the quarterfinal stage.
“Wimbledon is my favorite Grand Slam, that’s for sure. Also playing on grass, it’s my favorite surface. I really enjoy playing on grass,” Rybarikova said. “I never played good here. I mean, I lost I think eight in a row in the first round. So, I mean, then it was a little bit in my head that, I mean, I just want to pass the first round. Two years ago I did a third round. Then, you know, I relaxed. I was like, ‘Okay, I can make it. I can be through the first round.’
“I’ve been playing very well on grass. I won Birmingham [before]. Now I won two titles, ITF I made semifinals in Nottingham, and I won against good players. I was still believing I could do well here. Third round was for me already good. I’m not used to playing semifinal, obviously.”
Rybarikova and Vandeweghe were meeting at a Grand Slam for the second time in the span of a month – as the Slovak recorded a 6-1, 6-4 win in the opening round of Roland Garros.
But even on a quicker, grass court – where both players are more comfortable – Rybarikova showcased the kind of tennis that made her a thorn in the American’s side over the course of their careers, as she improved her record against Vandeweghe to 3-0, and 6-0 in sets.
Using a wide variety of shots, Rybarikova worked Vandeweghe all over the court in one hour, 14 minutes of play – which did not take into account the over three-hour rain delay between the time the players left No.1 Court due to rain with Rybarikova leading 6-3, 2-2 – and the end of the match under the roof on Centre Court.
The Slovak hit just eight winners and eight errors in 18 games, but her wily brand of tennis lured the No.24 seed into 30 unforced errors over the course of the match – which she was unable to balance out with only 17 winners.
The American also struggled behind her trademark serve as well, as she hit seven double faults and landed just 42 percent of her first serves – which allowed Rybarikova to get looks into almost all of her service games, and to break four times.
“I think she doesn’t like my game that much…I was trying to change the rhythm,” Rybarikova said of the matchup. “I was reading quite well her serve. That’s, I think, very important against CoCo, that you have to really return well and then hold your serve. I was trying to put as much first serves in as is possible. I
“I was really confident with my strokes today and really felt it good. Sometimes on the warmups you don’t feel that well, but today I felt really good. I was just a little bit disappointed with the rain conditions. I wanted to finish outside because it was quite windy. I think it suits my game more than to her game.
“I was just saying myself, ‘You’re going to Centre Court. You should enjoy it. You won against Karolina that match. So you can win it again.’ Yeah, here I am.”
Despite playing in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, Rybarikova hardly looked the part – as she trailed just once total in the match.
A break in the first game was all she needed to seal out the first set – as Vandeweghe never forced her to deuce on her serve – and she nabbed an ensurance break for good measure to end the opener in her favor.
Looking to make her second Grand Slam semifinal of the season, Vandeweghe looked to be on her way to getting a foothold in the match as she broke to love to open the second set, by Rybarikova struck back immediately before the players were later ushered off after four games of the second set.
Upon resumption, Rybarikova held serve after being taken to deuce for the first time, and broke the American’s serve to put herself in the driver’s seat. Though she saw three match points pass her by in the eighth game on Vandeweghe’s serve, she made no mistake in the ninth as she built a 40-0 lead and claimed the match on her fourth chance overall.
With a spot in the Wimbledon final on the final, Rybarikova will have to topple another seeded player – No.14 seed and 2015 finalist Garbine Muguruza.
“She’s amazing player. She’s going to be favorite. Again, I’m here to enjoy the match. We’ll see what’s going to happen. I played her a few years ago on grass. I won that match, but Wimbledon semifinal is a little bit different,” the Slovak said. “I saw her playing today. She was playing really well, very aggressive. I was very impressed the way she played. I just have to enjoy this match.
“Right now what is happening, it’s just a dream. I’m so, so grateful for this opportunity to be in the semifinal.”