News Australia Star’s comeback from scandal infamy

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Tennis: Ash Barty has been denied a spot in the semi finals at Nottingham by Johanna Konta.

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DONNA Vekic, an unwitting protagonist in the whispered tale of a tennis sex triangle, won a Wimbledon tune-up event this weekend to remind the world why she was once considered one of the sport’s hottest prospects.

Vekic, still just 20 years old, won her first tour tournament three years ago as a teenager, but had endured tough times before a major breakthrough win on Sunday at the Nottingham grass-court event over the home favourite, world No. 8 Johanna Konta.

Vekic is probably best known now as the girlfriend of Swiss three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka.

Two years ago, she was dragged into the most salacious story to hit tennis in years, when the controversial Nick Kyrgios was overheard on a courtside microphone nastily taunting Wawrinka by telling him: “Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend. Sorry to tell you that, mate.” Kyrgios was referring to Thanasi Kokkinakis, an Australian who at the time was mixed doubles partners with Vekic.

The gossipy fallout sent Vekic’s career into something of a tailspin.

Donna Vekic is a WTA Tour event champion.

Donna Vekic is a WTA Tour event champion.Source:AP

She was seen weeping at the next major event, the US Open in 2015 forcing a chair umpire to ask her if she was “all right”.

After struggling with the humidity on the court that day she offered only one comment on the recent scandal created by Kyrgios’ infamous comment, saying it was ridiculous that he wasn’t suspended immediately by the ATP.

“He didn’t get suspended. It’s ridiculous. No more comment on this.’’

Now, it appears, she is much closer to returning to the career trajectory previously forecast for her as a remarkable teenage prospect.

“It’s pretty amazing. The last time I played a final, I wasn’t allowed to have champagne,” she told the crowd, laughing, after her win Sunday.

“I’m going to drink a bottle of champagne with my team to celebrate.”

Stan Wawrinka arrives with his partner Donna Vekic in Brisbane last year.

Stan Wawrinka arrives with his partner Donna Vekic in Brisbane last year.Source:News Corp Australia

At the age of 16, she reached her first WTA Tour final in Tashkent (in 2012) and was runner-up in another Wimbledon warm-up event in Birmingham (in June 2013), prompting former champion Chris Evert to predict a top-10 career for Vekic, a native of Croatia. But she has never come remotely near those heights.

Yet with her 21st birthday coming later this month, Sunday’s victory over Konta felt like the tennis coming-of-age for a player who had finished outside the top 100 in the past two seasons, but who now reckons she has become older and wiser.

The hard-hitting Vekic prevailed, 2-6, 7-6(3), 7-5, in a thrilling two-and-a-half-hour contest in which momentum switched dramatically. It was her second tight tussle in 24 hours, following her dramatic semi-final win over Lucie Safarova.

“She was able to continuously raise her level throughout that match and I was just not able to stay with her, so full credit to her for playing incredibly well,” Konta said.

Konta outclassed the nervy Vekic in the opening set, but the world No. 70 gradually relaxed and went for broke, finding the lines consistently with her bigger groundstrokes.

After Vekic let a 3-1 lead slip in the deciding set, Konta appeared to be surging toward the title as she moved into a 4-3 lead, but the Croatian held her nerve to break for a 6-5 lead and then served out for victory.

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