The 23-year-old, born in Moscow but who represents Kazakhstan, arrived on Centre Court as the underdog against 2019 Wimbledon champion Halep. The Romanian was back at SW19 for the first time since that triumph and looked set to reach consecutive finals, of sorts, having not dropped a set all tournament.
But Rybakina needed 76 minutes to booked her place in a first Grand Slam final, in just her second main-draw appearance at Wimbledon, as she hit her way through Halep in a sensational 6-3 6-3 victory. She will face another first-time finalist on Saturday in Ons Jabeur, after the Tunisian got the better of Tatjana Maria’s variety earlier in the day. Maria brought subtlety and guile to that match; Jabeur should expect Rybakina to bring a sledgehammer.
The last four was already the furthest Rybakina had ever made it in a major but there were no sign of nerves as she swiftly settled into her work. A double fault gave from Halep have her a break point, which she took with a flat forehand. It was followed by a comfortable hold and Rybakina led 3-0 after just eight minutes.
She had two chances to move a double break up, as a succession of huge groundstrokes pummelled their way through Halep’s defences. The Romanian saved both, before seeing off a set point to hold and keep herself, at least temporarily, in the set at 5-3 down. Rybakina brought up three more set points and while Halep staved off the first two, there were to be be no more heroics. Halep’s run of 21 straight sets won at Wimbledon was over.
Rybakina did not require any gifts, so well was she playing, but two were presented to her as she took real control of proceedings at the start of the second set. A fifth double fault of the match from Halep led to a break point and a sixth immediately followed. The favour was returned in the fourth game of the set though, as Rybakina had her first poor spell of the match and a break to love was the response.
But Halep proved her own worst enemy once more. Rybakina brought up a break point in the very next game and did not have to hit a single shot to convert it, as the Halep second serve broke down again. Two aces from Rybakina ensured she consolidated that and moved to within two games of victory.
Halep stepped up to extend her tournament, serving at 5-3 down, and two points both brought an end to the match and summed it up perfectly. A ninth double fault came from Halep, before Rybakina grabbed a match point with both hands as she hammered a stunning backhand return down the line.