Jasmine Paolini has surprised herself by reaching back-to-back grand slam finals

Jasmine Paolini admitted that if anyone had told her two months ago she would be in the Wimbledon final, she would think they were “crazy”.

Paolini, the 28-year-old seventh seed, won a Centre Court classic of a semi-final against Donna Vekic 2-6 6-4 7-6 (10/8) after a nerve-shredding match tie-break.

At two hours and 51 minutes it was the longest women’s semi-final in Wimbledon history, and at the end of it Paolini became the first Italian woman to reach the final, where she will face Barbora Krejcikova.

It is a remarkable run from a player who had not won a Tour-level match on grass until 15 days ago, in Eastbourne, and had lost in the first round in her only previous three visits to SW19.

Jasmine Paolini looks stunned as she rests her hand over her mouth
Jasmine Paolini was emotional after reaching the Wimbledon final (John Walton/PA)

But this is a woman who, until this year, had never gone beyond the second round of a grand slam and yet, five weeks ago, was in the final of the French Open.

“You are crazy, I would say, yes,” she said. “Yeah, I don’t have words. Just, yeah, you are crazy.

“Two grand slam finals in a row was crazy to believe, I think, no? I’m also surprising how at the moment, until now in this moment, I’m living this.

“I feel maybe Saturday I will be so nervous, I don’t know. But I feel also relaxed. I’m the same person. I’m doing the same things. Yeah, I don’t know. I’m surprised a little bit how I’m managing this.

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Donna Vekic was reduced to tears (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

“I don’t want to say more because maybe Saturday I’m going to be shaking. Yeah, I’m surprising myself to live this with really relaxing mood, you know?”

Paolini is the first woman to reach back-to-back Roland Garros and Wimbledon finals since Serena Williams in 2016.

Williams lost in Paris – just as Paolini did against Iga Swiatek – but then lifted the Venus Rosewater Dish after beating Angelique Kerber.

Unseeded Vekic, also 28, was playing in her first grand slam semi-final and was in tears at times during a deciding set of unimaginable twists and turns.

She led by a break in the deciding set and had further break points on the Paolini serve at 5-5.

But it was Paolini who took her third match point, and the first of the tie-break, to leave Vekic heartbroken.

“I thought I was going to die in the third set,” said the Croatian. “I had so much pain in my arm, in my leg. It was not easy out there, but I will recover.

“I was more crying because I had so much pain, I didn’t know how I could keep playing.”

Vekic, who came close to quitting tennis just six weeks ago, such was her disenchantment with the sport, added: “My team tells me that I can be proud of myself.

“But it’s tough right now. It’s really tough. For sure I will need to take couple of days to see everything.

“Yeah, I don’t know, it’s tough to be positive right now. It was so close. I had a lot of chances.”