33-year-old Barbora Strycova hustled and sliced her way to a comeback upset of Johanna Konta to make her maiden Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon.
Alex Macpherson
July 9, 2019

LONDON, UK - Barbora Strycova delivered a swashbuckling performance to hustle and slice her way into her maiden Wimbledon semifinal with a 7-6(5), 6-1 upset of No.19 seed Johanna Konta in one hour and 37 minutes.

The 33-year-old had only previously reached one major quarterfinal - also at Wimbledon in 2014 - while Konta was bidding for her third appearance in a Grand Slam final four, and second back-to-back after last month's Roland Garros. However, despite being outgunned at the start of the match, Strycova clawed her way back into the contest and rode the momentum to victory with her trademark supremely entertaining guile.

The Czech had won her only previous encounter with Konta 7-5, 7-6(5) in the second round of Tokyo in 2017, but the Briton began today's match as though in a hurry to rectify that result. Powering through her groundstrokes with confidence and negating Strycova's serve-and-volley tactics with venomous returns, the 28-year-old saved a break point in the first game and leapt out to a 3-0 lead.

Indeed, all of the newfound variety Konta has displayed over the past few months was clicking: volleys, dropshots and slices that discombobulated a variety queen such as Strycova.

But the World No.54 rarely stays flummoxed for long, and was soon showing off her full and extensive repertoire as she inched back up the scoreboard. A devilish short forehand slice would prove particularly effective in disrupting Konta's rhythm - and it was an error off one such shot that enabled Strycova to break the Konta serve for only the fourth time in the tournament and level at 4-4.

As the first set reached its climax, Strycova conjured up several moments of real magic on crucial points: a delectable half-volley en route to holding for 6-6, an acutely angled volley to level the tiebreak at 5-5. Appropriately enough, the 2002 girls' doubles champion would steal the set by drawing yet another error with her fiendish slice.

An unlikely first-set comeback turned into a processional second set: Strycova went from strength to strength, swarming the net and excelling on defence, while Konta descended into a host of panicky errors as she proved increasingly unable to hit through her opponent. Strycova, who tallied 22 winners to just nine unforced errors, was everywhere on court and relentlessly accurate with her passing shots, and seized her long-awaited opportunity with gusto as she neared the finishing line; Konta, by contrast, would concede her serve twice more, with a particularly wild drive volley - one of 34 unforced errors today - sealing the double break.

Serving for the match - and a semifinal date with No.11 seed Serena Williams - Strycova fell behind 0-30. But there was to be no wobble from the veteran: a glorious carving volley got her a foothold in the game, and three points later another Konta backhand sailed long to seal Strycova's triumph.