LONDON, Great Britain - Sixth seed Johanna Konta won an epic Centre Court battle at Wimbledon as she beat Croatia's Donna Vekic 7-6, 4-6, 10-8.
In a stunning battle of magnificent serving and psychological intensity, the pair dueled for over three hours in the London sunshine - drawing praise from the legendary Billie Jean King.
"Both of us deserved to win," Konta told reporters afterwards. "I think it was one of those matches where, yeah, it was going to just be decided at the very last minute."
For the second time in as many rounds, Konta was facing an opponent who had inflicted a recent defeat on her. On Monday, she avenged her first-round defeat at Roland Garros to Hsieh Su-Wei, and today's encounter was a rematch of last month's Aegon Open final, which Vekic won in three sets.The match began cagily before Vekic made the first break to take a 5-3 lead, but she lost the chance to serve out for the first set. Ferocious hitting from Konta saved two set points before the Croat sent a forehand putaway long to hand the break straight back.
Vekic's improved mental strength had been evident in the Nottingham final, though. The 21-year-old held off four break points in her next service game, and the set ultimately went to a closely contested tiebreak - decided by one minibreak, won by Konta at 4-4 with a superb, aggressive return.
Once again Vekic responded well, breaking the Briton in the first game of the second set with some heavy hitting. Some wobbles entered the World No.58's game when a pair of double faults led to a concession of her lead in the fourth game - but Vekic simply shook off the setback to break once again with a big backhand winner. This time, she fended off a pair of break points with big serves to consolidate - and rode the lead to the end of the set to take the match into a decider.
The third set stayed on serve, with both players serving incredibly well, and Konta saved break point to move into a 7-6 lead.
The Brit took a tumble in the next game - not as painful or as heavy as the fall she suffered at the Aegon International, but still disorienting - and Vekic held serve again to level things up.
As the match clock ticked into a fourth hour, the Croatian saved match point with a fizzing ace - but could do nothing about the second as Konta's return was simply too much for her to deal with.
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