LONDON, Great Britain - The Wimbledon fortnight has brought more surprises, thrilling matches, and a new WTA World No.1 before even hitting its final weekened.
Karolina Pliskova was assured of succeeding Angelique Kerber on Monday's rankings following Johanna Konta's titanic victory over No.2 seed Simona Halep, who was two points from clinching the spot for herself in Tuesday's quarterfinals.
Konta joins five-time Wimbledon winner Venus Williams, who looks better than ever in the hunt for her first major title in nine years, in the semifinals alongside former French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza and Slovak surprise Magdalena Rybarikova.
WTA Senior Writer Courtney Nguyen and WTA Web Editor David Kane reconvene with an ocean between them to preview the semifinal schedule in front of them, and what it will mean to have Pliskova moving to the head of the class.
All this and more in the latest episode of the WTA Insider Podcast:
Insider Talking Points:
"It has been quite the evolution from Pliskova over the last few seasons. This is a player who started her rise by dominating on the International level back in 2014, and slowly working her way onto the elite level the next year. Last season saw ups and downs, but not the kind of consistency we'd gotten used to, but the last 52 weeks have been such an impressively high level of consistent excellence across all surfaces - something that truly befits a World No.1." Kane on Pliskova's accession to WTA World No.1.
"Over the years, there have been many criticisms of top players on the women's side - they're not fair, but they exist. With that said, I could not have gone into a lab and created a player who addresses so many of those criticisms of women's tennis as I could with Pliskova. She has a flawless serve. She's the ace leader, not just this year, but last year, as well; the only one outside of Serena who can compete with her there is her twin sister, Kristyna! She plays incredibly aggressively, the Czech game we saw from Petra Kvitova, only right-handed. She doesn't get nervous. She's incredibly honest and no-nonsense in press conferences. She's so focused on her tennis. In Indian Wells, I asked her about whether she was offered photoshoot opportunities, and she said she turns them down because she just wants to play tennis. That's the first time I understood the ambition within Karolina Pliskova; she doesn't just want to be a Top 20 player who scores an occasional upset. Her Instagram message today thanks fans, but also the doubters, which clearly calls out everyone who might have thought she was too slow, or didn't work hard enough, but here she is, sitting on top of the world." Nguyen on Pliskova's champion mindset.
"I think there's a change now because this is the first major tournament in a while that people truly believe Venus can win. For all of her improvements over the last few years, there was perhaps still a sense that there was not only a ceiling, but it was still fair to expect dips in form that would prevent her from winning the requisite seven matches to become a Grand Slam champion. The way Venus has kept up her Melbourne momentum through the spring hardcourts and the clay court season, and the clean tennis she has played through five rounds here against tricky opponents. We're at a point now were she's back on the A-list, not just a sentimental favorite or someone who exists merely to inspire others with middling to higher levels of success. What we're seeing is real right now from Venus; it's not a one-off, and could perhaps be the start of a new chapter to her career. This is also the first time we can truly appreciate her improvements, but also expect more going forward." Kane on an ageless Venus Williams' changing role on tour.
"A lot of things are lining up fro Jo Konta, meeting a familiar foe in Venus Williams. It's an interesting battle of the pond with US vs GB. I really do think that Konta is playing incredibly well and the serve is working. The way she has competed has really floored me, because if there was ever a moment where she might buckle, it should have been here on Centre Court, against a lower ranked player she's supposed to beat. It would make sense for the nerves to get to her, but they haven't; if anything, she buckles down and grits it out. All I can say is that I wish it were Thursday so I can watch this match." Nguyen on Johanna Konta's ability to embrace the moment.
"We've seen a lot of vocal, verbal pronouncements, loud 'Come On!'s. She's totally absorbed the pressure and using it to propel her to even greater heights. She's played tense matches that have been decided by razor thin margins, battling past the likes of Donna Vekic and Caroline Garcia, who were both having great serving days. Konta has refused to falter throughout and never blinked in the third set against Halep. The only thing that keeps me from saying that Jo Konta is going to win Wimbledon is just the idea that it's not someting I expect her to do, and given who is left in the draw, that's not fair. She can beat Venus, and the winner of Muguruza or Rybarikova. This is a title she can win, and one she would deserve." Kane on Konta's chances of winning Wimbledon.