Donna Vekic is hoping Croatia take on Switzerland in the World Cup semi-finals so she can square off against her boyfriend, three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, the 22-year-old said after her impressive straight-sets upset of No.4 seed Sloane Stephens at Wimbledon on Monday.
The morning after Croatia came through nerve-wracking penalty kicks to defeat Denmark and reach the World Cup quarter-finals, Vekic stunned US Open champion Stephens 6-1, 6-3 to bring more good news for her country.
It was the third top-10 win of Vekic’s career and it helped erase some painful memories from previous appearances at Wimbledon, where she lost a heartbreaker to Johanna Konta 10-8 in the decider of their second round here last year.
“I played the opening match on Court 1 against Venus two years ago, so I didn’t have great memories from that. But playing at Wimbledon is special, you get to play on Court 1 or Centre Court it’s even more special and I’m really happy I managed to get some good memories out of it,” said the Croatian.
Vekic admits she struggled to sleep the night before after watching Croatia’s thriller against Denmark and she’s now looking forward to some serious trash talk with Wawrinka, if the two nations end up facing off in the World Cup semi-finals.
“Oh my God, that was crazy, I tell you I couldn’t sleep after that, I was like sh**! That was a close one,” said Vekic when asked about the game, adding that she had faith that team captain Luka Modric would score, even after missing a penalty earlier in the game.
“If they win the whole thing? I think, like me, we should take it one match a time. I’m hoping for a Croatia-Switzerland semi-finals,” she said with a laugh.
Asked who was the better trash-talker, her or Wawrinka, she said: “Stan’s pretty good, he was giving a lot to Torben [Beltz, my coach] because Torben likes to talk as well.”
Vekic’s win over the fourth-ranked Stephens is her best victory, ranking-wise, but she finds it difficult to describe it as the biggest triumph of her career. Her grass-court credentials are strong, having amassed a respectable 17-11 win-loss record on the surface, including a title run in Nottingham in 2017, and a runner-up showing in Birmingham in 2013.
“I think those wins when I beat the top-10 players to get the title, I would say that’s bigger. This is a huge win but it’s only first round, I would like to go further into the tournament,” admits Vekic, who next faces Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in round two.
“If I beat someone less ranked but it’s later in the tournament I would say that would be bigger. But for sure today it’s a huge win, she’s the US Open champion, she played final in Paris. I knew it was going to be a tough match today.”
Having eliminated a top-four seed, Vekic’s draw potentially opens up but she isn’t looking too far ahead.
“I will definitely try not to think about that. I know who I could potentially play in my next round but I don’t want to think beyond that because I am quite known to put a lot of pressure on myself so I don’t want to do that,” said Vekic, whose best Grand Slam appearances were reaching the third rounds at the 2017 US Open and 2015 French Open.
Vekic finished her post-match press duties then went straight to Centre Court to watch Wawrinka take on Grigor Dimitrov in a high-profile first round.
“I’m really happy that I was the first one today, so now I can watch a little bit. It’s not easy when both our matches are on the same day, we’re both kind of a little bit stressed but it’s good if we both win and I’m hoping that will be today,” she said.
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