Saturday 18 November 2017

Johanna Konta comes through another three-set thriller to reach last eight at Wimbledon

Johanna Konta celebrates victory over Caroline Garcia on day seven of the Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon.
Johanna Konta celebrates victory over Caroline Garcia on day seven of the Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon.

Johanna Konta survived another three-set thriller at Wimbledon to beat Caroline Garcia and become the first British woman to reach the quarter-finals in 33 years.

Not since Jo Durie in 1984 has this country boasted a female in the last eight of the singles but Konta was made to work hard for her progress by a player Andy Murray once labelled a future world number one.

Garcia has all the shots but Konta's resilience again proved key in a 7-6 (7/3) 4-6 6-4 victory that means the British number one will now face either Victoria Azarenka or Simona Halep.

When Garcia slapped a final forehand into the net, Konta fell to her knees, struggling to hold back the tears before embracing her opponent at the net.

"It was such a tough match to play," Konta told the BBC.

"She's really on impressive form so it's very hard to get any rhythm out there when she's serving so well and gets her first strike in.

"Overall I was just happy to get enough returns in in that last game. I was trying to stay light on my feet and strong in my body to try to neutralise her balls. There was very little between us today."

Konta described it as "pretty special" to match Durie's feat but she will justifiably now have another long-standing record in her sights, that of Virginia Wade - the last British woman to win Wimbledon in 1977.

Garcia had beaten Konta, also in three sets, at Indian Wells in March but she is yet to beat a top-10 player at a grand slam and this time it was Konta's serve, and nerve, that came up trumps.

The world number seven was placed on Court One for the third time in her four matches here, with Venus Williams the preferred women's tie on Centre Court along with Murray and Roger Federer.

The home favourite started like a train, winning eight out of the first 10 points, but she was aided too by a nervy Garcia who flashed a smash long in her opening service game.

The error helped Konta grab the break but Garcia soon found her range and by the end of the set it was the Frenchwoman cranking up the pressure.

Konta, serving for the set, saved two break points and then squandered a set point of her own, but her frustration grew moments later when Garcia clinched the game with a successful challenge.

Feeling her error had been prompted by the out-call, Konta briefly protested but she quickly recovered and stormed into a 3-0 lead in the tie-break.

Garcia should have closed the gap to one but her drive volley was met with a sizzling forehand pass and instead Konta served out the set with an ace.

She had crawled over the line but Konta's first serve and forehand were both breaking down and it was not such a surprise when Garcia took a 5-1 lead in the second.

Konta surged back to 5-4 and while Garcia held her nerve at the second time of asking to serve out, it felt like the momentum had returned to the Briton.

She won the first game of the decider to love but it took nine games before either managed a sniff of a break.

Serving to stay in the match, Garcia watched a backhand pass sail past her before a missed backhand of her own gave Konta match point.

Garcia had the court at her mercy but instead thrashed the forehand into the net and, after two hours and 12 minutes, Konta was able to celebrate.

Elsewhere, Venus Williams is determined to keep the Wimbledon title in the family and moved a step closer to achieving that goal when reaching the quarter-finals on Monday.

The 37-year-old has admitted she is missing the company of sister Serena this fortnight, with the reigning champion absent as she expects her first child.

But veteran 10th seed Venus appears as likely as anybody to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish on Saturday, and a 6-3 6-2 fourth-round victory over Croatian teenager Ana Konjuh was as impressive as the scoreline indicates.

Konjuh could not cope with the serving prowess of five-time former champion Williams, who landed 72 per cent of her first deliveries and is tough for anyone to beat when hitting such numbers.

Williams goes on to tackle Latvia's French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko next.

The task of taking on Ostapenko is one for which Williams may want to do her homework before their Tuesday clash, after admitting she missed the 20-year-old's unexpected run to the Roland Garros title.

"I haven't seen her play a lot," said Williams, whose win over Konjuh came on Centre Court.

"I didn't watch any of the French when I was finished with it. I know she had an amazing moment there. She's riding on that momentum. It's just been such an amazing result for her. So I'm definitely really happy for her."

But according to Williams it will be coach David Witt who pays the closest attention to footage of Ostapenko on grass. And while he might feed useful snippets of information, Williams trusts her game to match up to whatever challenge develops on court.

"I think my coach will probably look at the matches more than I will," Williams said. "I think I'll see what happens when I get out there.

"I'm sure she hits well off all sides. I have to see what the nuances are once the game starts, because you can't necessarily plan for those."

Williams won her collection of Wimbledon singles titles during a golden spell from 2000 to 2008, and she added: "When I come to these tournaments, my focus is just me, not necessarily the other 127 women. So that is all I can control, is my performance. That's still my focus at the moment."

German top seed Angelique Kerber bowed out of Wimbledon and will lose her world number one status after a fourth-round defeat to Garbine Muguruza.

In a gripping clash on Court Two, Muguruza clinched a 4-6 6-4 6-4 victory to set up a quarter-final against Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Kerber and Muguruza have a shared experience of being beaten in the Wimbledon final by Serena Williams. Muguruza lost to the American in the 2015 title match, and Kerber fell to Williams last year.

Romanian Simona Halep will become number one in the world if she reaches the semi-final stage. Should Halep not advance so far, Karolina Pliskova will become the new rankings leader on Monday.

French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the first time with a dramatic victory on Monday.

The Latvian was a 6-3 7-6 (8/6) winner against Ukrainian fourth seed Elina Svitolina, stumbling over the line after at one point having looked set to coast through.

Ostapenko, who turned 20 only two days before her Roland Garros triumph last month, needed eight match points to get over the line in her Court 12 tussle.

Five came and went when she served for the match at 5-3, and as her game became ragged Ostapenko dropped serve again to trail 6-5, in danger of being pushed to a decider.

But Ostapenko struck back, pouncing on Svitolina's serve and forcing the tie-break that had more tension in store.

Ostapenko opened up a 6-4 lead, giving her two further match points, but from the first she drove a return into the net before Svitolina then forced an error.

The eighth match point arrived thanks to an angled backhand that landed tight to the line, and Ostapenko clinched victory when Svitolina netted.

"Come on!" shouted 13th seed Ostapenko, later leaving the court all smiles, posing for photos with a host of camera-phone carrying fans.

She was awaiting the winner of the Centre Court clash between five-time champion Venus Williams and Croatian teenager Ana Konjuh.

Svetlana Kuznetsova is no stranger to the Wimbledon quarter-finals, but until she beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2 6-4 on Monday she had not been in the last eight for 10 years.

Russian Kuznetsova first reached that stage in 2003, repeating the run in 2005 and 2007, and a fourth quarter-final appearance for the 32-year-old seventh seed was secured with a clinical performance against Polish player Radwanska, the 2012 runner-up.

Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova extended her career-best grand slam performance, overcoming Croatian Petra Martic 6-4 2-6 6-3 on Court 18.

Until this year's championships, Rybarikova had paid nine visits to Wimbledon and suffered eight first-round defeats over that time, with the exception a third-round run two years ago.

The 28-year-old will have Caroline Wozniacki or Coco Vandeweghe standing in her way of reaching the semi-finals.

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