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Preview: Donna Vekic vs. Jasmine Paolini - prediction, head-to-head, tournament so far

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Wimbledon semi-final match between Donna Vekic and Jasmine Paolini, including predictions, head-to-head and their tournament so far.

Thursday pits two first-time Wimbledon semi-finalists against each other when Donna Vekic faces Jasmine Paolini for a place in Saturday's women's singles final.

Vekic bested Lulu Sun in a thrilling semi-final three-setter, while Paolini ended her Emma Navarro hoodoo by dispatching the American in two to continue her outstanding year.

Match preview

Jasmine Paolini reacts at Wimbledon on July 7, 2024© Reuters

Vekic looked exhausted after getting the better of New Zealander Sun in Wednesday's quarter-final, following the heart-warming run that saw the qualifier make it that far in her second Grand Slam appearance.

The Croatian, like her opponent, was featuring in the last eight of a major for the first time, and she defeated Emma Raducanu's conqueror in an encounter that unsurprisingly went the distance, with both women playing three-set matches in all but one round en route to their tussle in the quarters.

Vekic had made the last eight at majors on two occasions before her ongoing run at the Championships — at the 2019 US Open and last year's Australian Open — but had never made it to the last four of any Slam before this year's run at SW19.

Her success over Lulu means she becomes the third Croatian women's singles in the Open Era after Iva Majoli (Roland Garros 1997) and Mirjana Lucic (Wimbledon 1999 and Australian Open 2017) to make the semis of a major.

Now she aims to extend her 10-match winning run on grass — no player in 2024 has more — when she pits her wits against Paolini on Thursday.

For the Italian, her outstanding 2024 keeps improving after producing a masterclass to beat Navarro for the first time after three previous losses in their head-to-head.

While the Roland Garros runner-up was tipped to make the semis in three sets, Paolini got the job done in two, outplaying her opponent who was also making her first appearance in the last eight after defeating four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka and No. 2 seed Coco Gauff en route to Tuesday's encounter.

The upshot of that outcome means a player who was winless at Wimbledon in three consecutive years has notched five victories on the trot at this year's Championships, and she seeks to make that six against her Croatian opponent.

Emulating Serena Williams (2016) to become the first woman to reach the final at Roland Garros and semis at Wimbledon in the same season as well as becoming the oldest player to reach their first semi-finals in two different majors in a calendar year since Betty Stove (1977) is not enough for the all-smiles 28-year-old, whose next challenge is another shot at notching a major after losing to Iga Swiatek in Paris weeks back.

Only one player has forced the No. 7 seed to three sets — Madison Keys in round four — but the American's unfortunate injury-enforced retirement with the decider tied 5-5 saw the Italian advance.

Having taken advantage to reach the last four, Paolini seeks success to make a maiden Wimbledon final on Saturday.

Tournament so far

Donna Vekic:

First round: vs. Wang Xiyu 3-6 6-3 6-4
Second round: vs. Erika Andreeva 6-2 6-3
Third round: vs. Dayana Yastremska 7-6[4] 6-7[3] 6-1
Round of 16: vs. Paula Badosa 6-2 1-6 6-4
Quarter-final: vs. Lulu Sun 5-7 6-4 6-1

Jasmine Paolini:

First round: vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo 7-5 6-3
Second round: vs. Greet Minnen 7-6[5] 6-2
Third round: vs. Bianca Andreescu 7-6[4] 6-1
Round of 16: vs. Madison Keys 6-3 6-7[6] 5-5 ret.
Quarter-final: vs. Emma Navarro 6-2 6-1

Head To Head

Cincinnati (2021) - Qualifying: Paolini 7-6(2) 6-2

Courmayeur (2021) - Semi-final: Vekic 6-2 6-0

Montreal (2023) - Round of 64: Paolini 7-6(3) 6-2

Both players have faced on the WTA Tour three times, with Vekic trailing Paolini 2-1 in their head-to-head.

They split their first two meetings in 2021 before Paolini edged ahead after last year's triumph in Montreal.

Interestingly, previous matches have ended in straight sets, but never have they battled with so much at stake, with Thursday's semi-final the pair's first match-up at a Grand Slam.

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We say: Paolini to win in three sets

Even though Paolini made the semi-final at Roland Garros, one last-four match to the Croatian's none is not a significant chasm to make the Italian a clear favourite, as the imminent encounter will be a novel experience for both players on the lawns of Wimbledon.

Vekic's pattern of going the distance in all but one match at this year's Championships may ultimately count against her against the fresher No. 7 seed.

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