LONDON, Great Britain – Britain’s Johanna Konta battled past Simona Halep in a three-set thriller to reach the Wimbledon semifinals, and add her name to the British tennis history books.
Facing off on Centre Court against No.2 seed Halep – who was bidding to become WTA World No.1, and would have clinched the ranking with a victory – Konta recovered strongly from dropping the opening set, coming back to win 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 6-4.
“To be in the semifinals of my home slam, and to do that in front of a full Centre Court, I mean, it's pretty, pretty special,” Konta said in her post-match press conference.
“I think the level of tennis that both of us played today, it was just a tremendous match. So I think just to be a part of a match like that again, I've been very fortunate this Championships. I feel very lucky.”
With the victory, Konta becomes the first British woman to reach the semifinals at the All England Club since Virginia Wade in 1978. With another victory, Konta will break the WTA Top 5, becoming only the fourth British woman ever to do so.
Halep’s defeat also ensures that World No.3 Karolina Pliskova, who crashed out of the tournament in the second round, will be the new WTA World No.1 after the rankings are released on Monday.
“It's nice to be in the Top 10 for so long time,” Halep reflected afterwards. “I'm really pleased with my performance.
“Of course, one of my goals is to get to No. 1. But I had another chance here. I was close, I could say. But doesn't affect me that much because I think I have many years ahead. So maybe I will have more chances. I'm close, so I have just to keep working.”
She added, “I feel [Pliskova] deserves to be there. She has the best serve, I think, after Serena. So well done to her. She played really well this year. I think she's happy now.”
Both players were evenly matched for most of the high-quality, two-hour and 40 minute clash, with just a handful of points deciding the fate of the match.
Halep got her nose in front first, breaking early with a searing backhand return to create a 2-0 lead. She played nearly perfect tennis to widen the gap to 4-1, and didn’t hit a single unforced error during the first six games. But a love hold followed by a love break from Konta put the Brit right back in the hunt, calmly leveling the score with some strong serving.
The Romanian accelerated ahead in the tiebreak, where she continued to do very little wrong against Konta. The No.6 seed blinked on a couple of returns to allow Halep to wrap up the first set.
The second set was decided by equally narrow margins – Konta brought up four break points total but couldn’t find a way to convert, and the pair barreled to another decider. This time it was Konta who came out on top, recovering from 3-1 down and with Halep two points away from taking the match.
Konta finally broke through in the third, breaking from 15-40 to cement at 3-2 lead as Halep’s forehand showed signs of breaking down.
The Brit stayed calm as Centre Court roared, staying on serve to close out the victory – and her first ever spot into the Wimbledon semifinals.
Up next for Konta, the Brit will take on Venus Williams in the semifinals after the five-time Wimbledon champion moved past Jelena Ostapenko earlier in the day.
“I'd like to think actually that [I’ve learned from] all the matches I played,” Konta said of her upcoming match. She leads Venus 3-2 in their head-to-head record.
“I know this will be my second Slam semifinal, but I do think nerves and excitement and those sorts of emotions that come along with big matches aren't necessarily specific to Grand Slam moments. I've been a part of some great moments and exciting moments in other events, as well.
“I'd like to think that I'll be using all that experience come Thursday. Obviously I've been on court with Venus before, so I'm fully aware of the challenge that I'm facing.”
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