STANFORD, CA, USA - No.3 seed Johanna Konta played one of the best matches of her career to dismiss former No.1 and two-time Bank of the West Classic champion Venus Williams, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, to capture her first WTA title.
"It's quite an incredibly humbling experience," she said after the match when asked about winning her first title. "It's a validation of all the hard work you've already put in and a motivator on the things you want to keep improving on, and the lengths you might go to in order to become that much better at your discipline
Konta kicked off her career-best season with a win over the elder Williams sister in the first round of the Australian Open, going on to become the first British woman to reach semifinals Down Under since Sue Barker in 1977. The top-ranked Brit has only continued to rise since then, making the second week of both Indian Wells and Miami, and finishing in the semifinals of the Aegon International in Eastbourne.
"I've played her twice before and knew I'd be playing a magnitude of experience. Venus Williams doesn't need an introduction, and I knew going into that I'd need to stay focused on myself and to be really grateful for the experience and try to learn from her within the match. I wanted to leave it all out there, but also absorb everything that I could possibly reinvest in my career moving forward."
Playing Stanford for the first time at 25 years old, Konta overcame a quarterfinal wobble against Zheng Saisai to emphatically defeat No.2 seed Dominika Cibulkova on Saturday, and was on course for a similarly landmark win against Williams on Sunday, surging out to a set and 4-1 lead.
"Credit to her for playing great tennis; she played so well and all of her balls were landing today," Venus said after the match. "It wasn't my best day, but I tried to stay in there and fight, and that helped me get an opportunity to win the match."
Where Konta was making her debut, Venus' story began in Stanford over 20 years ago, playing her first WTA tournament at the Bank of the West Classic - even winning a match before falling to Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in three sets. The American has played incredible tennis in her own right this season, and the Wimbledon semifinalist wouldn't go down without a fight.
"Just because it's 4-1 doesn't mean the match is over; it's not a favorable scoreline if you happen to be down, but it's not over."
From the aforementioned deficit, Venus won six of the next seven games to level the match at a set apiece.
"Quite honestly, you'd expect nothing less from a champion," Konta said. "They don't give away any match, much less a final. It was her 80th, so you could only imagine the number of different situations that she's already been in. It was about keeping things in perspective, and understanding there'd be ebbs and flows in the match."
Konta recovered in surprising fashion in the decider, relying on a fabulous serving day - one in which she hit 12 aces to three from Venus - and an aggressive ground game (42 winners to 39 unforced errord) to shake off a tricky final game to serve out her maiden WTA trophy.
"Every single point was a battle, and I tried to win as many battles as possible.
"The simpler you keep things, the more clarity you have, and the less dumb you play!"
? WTA (@WTA) July 24, 2016