Ranked 87th and unseeded, Rybarikova reaches Wimbledon semis

LONDON — Ranked 87th and unseeded at Wimbledon, Magdalena Rybarikova is making quite a run at the grass-court major.

The 28-year-old Slovak reached the semifinals at the All England Club on Tuesday, beating CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-3 and improving her record on grass to 18-1 this season.

“I won Birmingham (in 2009). Now I won two titles, ITF, I made semifinals in Nottingham, and I won against good players,” said Rybarikova, referring to a couple of lower-tier tournaments and the Aegon Open.

“I just recently played ITFs in Surbiton. I was thinking that I was nervous more there than today. I have no idea how come I was that calm. Obviously I was nervous, but I was not like I would shake. Sometimes I can get really nervous and really tight. But this match I was quite positive.”

Rybarikova is the lowest ranked player to make it to the Wimbledon semifinals since Zheng Jie did it in 2008 when she was ranked No. 133. She had never before even played in the second week of a major tournament and is the first Slovakian woman to reach the semifinals at the All England Club.

“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 said. “Wimbledon is my favourite Grand Slam, that’s for sure. Also playing on grass, it’s my favourite surface. I really enjoy playing on grass.”

Rybarikova will next face Garbine Muguruza in the semifinals on Thursday. Muguruza, the 2016 French Open champion, reached the Wimbledon final two years ago.

For Rybarikova, her past experiences at the All England Club are not so impressive. She has lost in the first round eight times and only once reached the third round, in 2015. That equaled her best result at any Grand Slam tournament.

This year, however, she beat third-seeded Karolina Pliskova in the second round. Pliskova will take over as the No. 1-ranked player on Monday.

“I think she’s playing the best tennis of her career right now,” Vandeweghe said of Rybarikova. “She’s won a lot of tournaments. She’s playing really well.”

Rybarikova missed the second half of the 2016 season after undergoing surgery on her left wrist and right knee. She missed the Australian Open while still recovering.

“It was that moment during January and before Australian Open was the moment that I was thinking to myself, if this not going to work, to have another surgery or something else, I just don’t want to hear it,” Rybarikova said. “I was pretty nervous about it.”

More nervous, probably, than she was on Tuesday.

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