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Donna Vekic’s 25th birthday could not have been more quintessentially Wimbledon, as rains delayed her scheduled first-round clash with Anastasia Potapova into the following day.

With COVID protocols forcing her family to stay home, the Croat spent the evening with friends—opting to hold out on the full story until after the tournament—and kept the celebration going on Tuesday with a 6-1, 6-4 win over the former junior champion.

“I was a little bit relieved at the end because I was 5-2 up and she broke me serving for the match and started to play a bit better,” Vekic explained. “So, I was happy to break in the end.”

A factor on all surfaces, the former Top 20 fixture made one of her earliest breakthroughs on grass, finishing runner-up in Birmingham as a 16-year-old.

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“Not playing Wimbledon last year was very sad; I remember when they canceled, I was just walking around the house, crying for three days," Vekic said. “Even in juniors, I enjoyed grass, and it’s not just the surface, but it’s Wimbledon. There’s a special feeling to everything here, so I’ve really enjoyed my time. We usually stay in a house and my family is here, so it’s a little bit different this year. I hope we can have that again next year.”

Vekic very nearly missed Wimbledon herself this year after a knee injury ruled her out of every tournament between the Australian Open and Roland Garros, where she returned to play a competitive two-setter with good friend Karolina Pliskova.

“I had my first surgery, and it’s probably the toughest thing for an athlete to go through. It was definitely a very tough time and tough couple of months, but I’m happy to be playing again. We really pushed super hard to be ready for the French. It was really pushing the limits, but I was able to play. The change to grass is always a little bit tricky, but I’m here. I would not say I’m 100 percent yet, but I’m trying to get there.”

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The year had begun on a bright note Down Under with a run to the fourth round in Melbourne, completing her box-set of Grand Slam second-week appearances. Former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova likely stands between her and another deep run at SW19, a predicament the two accidentally conjured over dinner several weeks ago.

“She was telling me how Wimbledon is her worst Slam in terms of results, and I was saying, ‘Come on, you’re going to make quarters this year!’" says Vekic. "Now I hope she doesn’t, but it’s going to be a good match. We practice together a lot, and we know each other’s game really well, and we had a pretty good match in Paris, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

Cherishing every win at the All England Club, Vekic has already had plenty to celebrate, including the birthday launch of DNNA, an indoor fragrance line.

“It’s been something we’ve been working on for the last couple of months—since last year, actually. Candles have been my passion for many years; I always travel with one, and if I don’t have one with me, I always buy one for the hotel room. It definitely helps me relax, and I think my brand speaks a lot to the idea of duality: the ups and downs, the highs and lows. It’s definitely who I am, and I hope people will like it.”

Vekic laughed at the thought of herself as a no-nonsense businesswoman but is eager to grow this new venture into something that can one day aid in her in the transition out of tennis.

“Of course, I hope to play well for a long time, and that’s definitely my priority, but this is something to look forward to.”

It is often said that smell is the sense most strongly linked to memory, and Vekic hopes at least once of her DNNA scents will bring fans back to the All England Club—if only from afar.

“We have five scents, and one is inspired by Wimbledon: strawberries and champagne. We were thinking how there wouldn’t be quite full capacity here this year, and not everyone can come to England. We tried to bring Wimbledon to the people!”