Barbora Krejcikova knocks out former champion Elena Rybakina in Wimbledon semis

Barbora Krejcikova stunned former champion Elena Rybakina to set up a final against Jasmine Paolini and ensure there will be another unexpected winner at Wimbledon.

Krejcikova, winner of the French Open in 2021 but never previously beyond the fourth round here, fought back from a set down to claim a 3-6 6-3 6-4 victory on Centre Court.

She will now hope to follow in the footsteps of her fellow Czech Marketa Vondrousova, who became the first unseeded winner of the women’s singles here 12 months ago, while Rybakina’s defeat guarantees an eighth different champion in eight years.

To do so she will have to overcome irrepressible Italian Paolini, who won one of the matches of the tournament against a tearful Donna Vekic in the preceding match to continue her remarkable season.

Krejcikova would have taken heart from having beaten Rybakina in both their previous meetings but both were on hard courts and it looked like the Kazakh, champion two years ago and winner of 19 of her 21 matches at Wimbledon before this one, would continue her grass-court dominance.

But Krejcikova turned the contest around impressively, saying afterwards: “(There’s) a lot of joy, a lot emotions. Also a lot of relief and I’m just super proud. I was down, I started 0-4, I was happy that I won the first game. I started to be in the zone and I didn’t want to leave the zone.”

The 28-year-old then became tearful as she talked about her mentor and former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna, who died seven years ago.

After the emotional drama of the first semi-final, which the crowd lived with both players, it was no surprise that Rybakina and Krejcikova walked out to a mostly empty stadium as fans took a break.

Elena Rybakina looks frustrated
Elena Rybakina looks frustrated (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

The flat atmosphere was reflected on the court, with the contest distinctly lacking in any rhythm.

Much of that was due to the ice-cold demeanour and clinical striking from Rybakina, whose power was simply too much for Krejcikova to cope with in the opening set.

The fourth seed quickly opened up a 4-0 lead, with Krejcikova not holding serve until the eighth game of the match.

There were plenty of errors, too, though from the racket of Rybakina, including a forehand netted from point-blank range on set point, and she dropped serve twice before clinching it.

It gave 28-year-old Krejcikova, whose run here has come as nearly as much of a surprise as her French Open success, something to hold on to, and cling she did in the opening games of the second set.

Rybakina had break points in each of Krejcikova’s opening three service games but the Kazakh could not find a way through.

And suddenly the errors were significantly outweighing the winners for Rybakina, while Krejcikova had adjusted to the power and was managing to use her varied game to unsettle her opponent.

The Czech clenched her fist and roared when she broke Rybakina to lead 4-2 before surviving a wobble serving for the set, taking her sixth chance after being up 40-0 then twice double-faulting.

Barbora Krejcikova hits a forehand
Barbora Krejcikova hits a forehand (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

It was the first time since a second-round meeting with German Laura Siegemund that Rybakina had been pushed to a deciding set, with the Kazakh dropping just 13 games combined in her other four matches.

She regrouped at the beginning of the third but Krejcikova’s confidence was high now and she struck in the seventh game, a tame attempt at a drop shot from Rybakina landing in the net on break point.

This time there were no nerves serving it out, the 28-year-old thrusting her hands into the air when Rybakina’s final return flew long.