For almost 45 minutes, Simona Halep handed out a public flogging to a shell-shocked Amanda Anisimova in their Wimbledon quarter-final on Wednesday.
It was getting so bad for Anisimova, her fellow American John McEnroe quipped: “This is bordering on embarrassing… this will be over in 10 minutes.”
McEnroe’s prediction was a little off but Romanian Halep will be fancying her chances of reaching a second Wimbledon final in three editions after subjecting a red-faced Anisimova to a 6-2, 6-4 mauling on Centre Court.
“It’s great to be back in the semi-finals. I’m very emotional right now. It means a lot,” a beaming Halep told the crowd after setting up a last-four showdown with 17th seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan.
For Anisimova, everything that could go wrong, went wrong.
The 20-year-old American had struck a tournament-leading 108 winners coming into the quarter-finals, but those shots were in short supply against an opponent who feels at home on grass and has not dropped a set in these championships.
When Halep broke for the fourth time to take 6-2, 4-1 lead, a tormented Anisimova expressed her disgust by rejecting one racket after another into her red bag.
That she ended up keeping Halep engaged on Centre Court past the hour mark was an accomplishment in itself because for the majority of match, fans who had forked out 175 pounds ($208) for a Centre Court ticket must have felt short-changed.
Staring at defeat at 5-1 down, the American managed to win three games on the trot for the first time in the contest, including breaking the 2019 champion when she went to serve for the match in the eighth game.
Two games later Anisimova had Halep 0-40 down again when she made a second attempt to serve out the victory.
But a few hard-hitting slaps to her thigh got the 30-year-old’s legs moving again and she secured the win when Anisimova swiped a backhand long.
“I played a tough opponent today – she could crunch the ball in the end,” 16th seed Halep said after reaching her third semi-final at the All England Club.
“I had to stay strong on my legs – they helped me today. I also needed my serve – everything was good, and it finished well.”
Rybakina reaches maiden Grand Slam semifinal
Rybakina recovered from a shaky start to overwhelm Tomljanovic and become the first Kazakhstan player to reach the last four of a Grand Slam.
Rybakina struggled in the first set but then started finding her serving range, at one point taking seven games in a row to secure the second set and put her in control of the third.
The 23-year-old, who would not have been allowed to play at this year’s Wimbledon had she not switched allegiance from Russia four years ago, finished the match with an ace – her 15th of the match.
“It’s amazing and I’m really happy that I got through after a really tough match,” she said.
Explaining a final set wobble after serving for it at 5-1, she added: “Maybe I was nervous. She played really well, was defending really well. I just tried to focus on myself to find my way and then I found it.”
Rybakina struggled to reproduce the serving power and accuracy that had been a hallmark of her march into the last eight, failing to land almost half her first deliveries in the opening set.
She broke early in the second and though Tomljanovic’s athletic court coverage enabled her to hit straight back, the tall Kazak then took total command, breaking to love before winning the set on the back of 11 straight points.
She cranked up the pressure in the decider, taking a 3-0 lead after winning seven games in a row, and breaking again for 5-1.
Tomljanovic was left throwing her arms up in despair as nothing she tried seem to come off and she sensed her hopes of a first Grand Slam semi-final were slipping away for the second year in a row.
Serving for the match and the biggest win of her career, Rybakina slumped to 0-40, and though she fought back to deuce, Tomljanovic completed to break to cling on to her outside hope.
The Kazakh then wasted two match points on Tomljanovic’s serve but it was the briefest of respites as Rybakina hammered down three service winners to close out her victory in style.