(Adds Cibulkova quotes)
By Pritha Sarkar
LONDON, July 10 (Reuters) - Jelena Ostapenko became the first Latvian to reach the Wimbledon singles semi-finals when she subdued Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova 7-5 6-4 on Tuesday.
Thirteen months after she captured the world’s attention by winning her first claycourt title at Roland Garros, Ostapenko will now hope to contest her first grasscourt final at the All England Club when she meet’s German 11th seed Angelique Kerber in Thursday’s last four showdown.
“I am fighting till the end and it helps me gain more confidence. It’s great to be in the semis,” a beaming Ostapenko said after beating Cibulkova for the first time in three attempts.
After more than a week of sizzling 30 degrees Celsius temperatures, the players struggled to find their range on a chilly and blustery Court One, where the ‘feels like’ temperature dipped to around the 14 degrees mark.
Four of the first five games went against serve before 12th seed Ostapenko’s game finally caught fire in the 11th game when she broke Cibulkova to love with a blazing backhand down-the-line winner.
Two successive aces, clocked at 103 and 106 mph, gave the 21-year-old the first set and the 2017 French Open champion tightened her grip on the contest when she ended another flurry of breaks to go 4-2 up in the second.
Cibulkova did her best to try and hang on but the Slovakian was left chasing shadows as Ostapenko blasted a backhand winner on her first match point to reach the last four without dropping a set in this year’s tournament.
There was no let up from Ostapenko throughout the 82-minute contest as she struck the ball with such ferocity that Cibulkova might have wanted to take cover as she watched 33 crisp winners fly off Ostapenko’s racket while her tally amounted to just six.
“I felt today on the court I couldn’t really bring my game into the match because she was really aggressive on the return. She didn’t let me play how I wanted,” said world number 33 Cibulkova.
“She’s playing with no fear. On the grass she’s playing even better than on the clay. It might be her year.” (Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris)