Quarterfinal action at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix got underway with an intriguing clash between a Grand Slam champion and one of the fastest-rising players on tour: experience ultimately won out over momentum as Elena Rybakina defeated Jasmine Paolini, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 to reach the semifinals in Stuttgart.

"I'm happy with my energy," Rybakina said on court after the match. "Of course, I had chances in the second set where I could have closed it out but overall, I think it's just a matter of matches and feeling better and better on the court."

Seeded fourth and making her third appearance on the indoor clay WTA 500, Rybakina shook off losing a set and a break lead to ultimately outlast the reigning Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships winner in just over two hours on Center Court.

"I think it's good preparation," Rybakina said of her time on court. "Hopefully, I can go far here, and then not be too tired to play the next tournament. But the more matches I play and the longer they are, it's better for me because clay is completely different from hard courts. This tournament is great preparation for the big ones."

That Paolini was unseeded in Stuttgart was a testament only to how many top players entered the event: at a career-high ranking of No. 14, the 28-year-old Italian has been one of the biggest stories of the season after storming to her first WTA 1000 victory in Dubai and backing up that run with a fourth-round finish at the BNP Paribas Open. She has been similarly impressive in doubles, partnering Sara Errani to reach the semifinals in Miami.

Her clay-season debut began with a thudding win over Errani, a former Roland Garros finalist, with the loss of just one game, and continued with a straight-sets victory over former world No. 2 Ons Jabeur to book a third meeting with Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion. The pair split their two previous encounters, with Rybakina defeating her last spring on clay at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia but having to retire from their next match at the Cincinnati Open.


Rybakina enjoyed a bye through her first match but endured a lengthy opening round against Veronika Kudermetova, needing three sets to defeat the world No. 19.

Still, the 24-year-old enjoyed a solid start to her Friday match with Paolini, shrugging off an early 0-2 deficit to win 10 of the next 13 games, clinching a 33-minute first set behind nine winners and surging to the brink of victory with a set and 4-2 advantage.

Paolini came to life from there, leveling the set at five games apiece to the stage for a titanic 11th game that took place on her serve. Navigating seven deuces, the Italian saved three break points and rode that momentum into a decider as Rybakina broke herself to love behind a barrage of unforced errors (17 in the second set alone).

The streaky match continued in Paolini’s favor early in the third: by 2-0, she had won seven of the last eight games to find herself up a break in the decider. Rybakina sparked up from there, racing ahead 0-40 before breaking off a well-struck volley into the open court.

Momentum swung right back to Rybakina from there as she evened the set and overpowered Paolini, who valiantly saved three break points, to break serve and reel off four straight games.

Paolini interrupted with a hold but Rybakina was undeterred, getting to match point with another excellent volley and clinching the hard-fought victory behind one last heavy return.

Awaiting Rybakina in the semifinals will be either top seed and double-defending champ Iga Swiatek, who has never lost a match in Stuttgart, or resurgent 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu.