Paolini upsets Rybakina to reach French Open semis


Italian surprise package Jasmine Paolini staved off a fightback from fourth seed Elena Rybakina to seal a 6-2 4-6 6-4 win on Wednesday and advance to the French Open semi-finals for the first time.

The 12th-seeded Paolini set up a last-four showdown with either Belarusian world number two Aryna Sabalenka or Russian 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva, who meet in the quarter-finals later on Court Philippe Chatrier.

"It's an unbeatable feeling. It was a tough match," said Paolini, who become the fourth Italian woman after Francesca Schiavone, Sara Errani and Martina Trevisan to make the Roland Garros semi-finals in the Open era.

"I was too emotional in the second set. I said to myself 'it's okay she's a great champion. It can happen. Just fight and try to hit every ball'."

Playing in her first Grand Slam quarter-final, the 28-year-old Paolini got off to a confident start by winning the opening two games and forced her opponent to work hard to hold serve, before breaking again en route to taking the first set.

A sublime backhand winner gave Paolini another break in the third game of the next set but 2022 Wimbledon champion Rybakina responded with one of her own and slowly came to grips with the Italian's power and precision.

Russian-born Kazakh Rybakina exchanged breaks with Paolini again but the 24-year-old held firm to level the contest at one set apiece and recovered after surrendering her serve at the start of the decider.

Paolini secured a hold to love to make it 4-4, playing at the level she showed early in the match and she took advantage of Rybakina's errors to close out a famous victory to huge cheers inside the main showcourt.

With Jannik Sinner also reaching the last four, there will be Italians in the semi-finals of both the men's and women's singles at a major for the first time in the Open era.

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