Johanna Konta secured her first win over a world number one in her career after she defeated Angelique Kerber in straight sets 6-3, 6-4 despite suffering a heavy fall in the closing stages of the match at the Aegon International in Eastbourne.
The Brit reached the semifinals in her home town tournament for the second year in a row and dominated the majority of the match against the German top seed. The fifth seed broke serve three times in the opening set and recovered from a break down in the second to close in on victory.
With Kerber serving to stay in it down 5-4 she had already saved two match points before Konta hit the deck during a rally on the third match point. The British number one hit the court with real force and banged her head in the process as she burst into floods of tears. Thankfully after a nearly 10 minute timeout she was able to calm herself down and with the support of the crowd continue the match. The Brit needed to play just two more points to close out victory in dramatic fashion.
* Article originally published by me for UBITennis.net *
Konta had also come through earlier on in the day on Centre Court against the French Open champion and 10th seed here Jelena Ostapenko 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 in a two hours and 18 minutes battle. The Brit came back from a break down in the first set to steal it, but her opponent grew in confidence as the match wore on and looked very good as she wrapped up the second. It was the home hope who made the better start in the decider, going up a break to lead 2-1, but the 20-year-old hit back. Playing in her first tournament since her triumph at Roland Garros, Ostapenko won three games in a row including two breaks of serve to take a 4-2 lead. Fifth seed Konta was not finished yet. Last year’s semifinalist bounced back to win four games in a row, sealing victory on her third match point after staving off two break back points from the dogged and determined Latvian who played her part in an excellent contest.
By contrast, the Brit’s quarterfinal opponent Kerber only needed one hour to see off the qualifier Lara Arruabarrena of Spain 6-2, 6-1 and had plenty of time to rest up for her second match of the day. Despite the physical fitness advantage with less court time and a 2-0 head to head winning record, the world number one was no match for Konta on Thursday evening.
The Brit got off to a perfect start, winning the coin toss and choosing to receive, the fifth seed immediately brought up two break points. Kerber saved the first with a backhand winner before Konta spurned two further chances with backhands into the net. A superb backhand cross court return winner set up a fourth opportunity and this time the British number one capitalised after her opponent netted a forehand.
The world number one was struggling to settle into the match as a 30-0 lead on serve evaporated leaving her facing another break point. The fifth seed missed an aggressive second serve return long to give the German a lifeline early on in this set, but Kerber squandered a chance to hold and netted a tentative forehand to hand a double break to the Brit.
Kerber had a couple of break point chances to get involved in this quarterfinal match, but Konta resisted, saving one with a fearless backhand strike and another with an ace. The fifth seed also had the chance to extend her lead, but the world number one was not to be denied her first game of the match, forcing her opponent to net her forehand to move just one break of serve behind.
A backhand cross court winner from Konta brought up yet another chance to break the German’s serve, but the Brit narrowly missed a cross court forehand attempted winner wide before Kerber held to narrow the gap to just one game.
After a series of service holds Konta landed a crucial strike in the ninth game. With Kerber serving to stay in the set the Brit struck two returns of serve which the top seed could not get back into court before a fifth double fault gave the fifth seed two set points. A forehand error wide from the German was enough to hand it to the British number one 6-3.
Having made 90% of her first serves in in the opening set, a lack of them in the opening game of the second proved to be Konta’s undoing. Kerber began to soft ball the Brit’s forehand and it broke down as a wild error from Brit as she attempted to generate her own pace handed the top seed an immediate break of serve.
That disappointment did not affect the Brit for long as she ripped another backhand return of serve cross court winner to bring up break back point. Konta ensured that she broke the world number one for a fourth time in the match with a well read volley into the open court following an aggressive forehand from the German.
The breaks did not stop there as a couple of unforced errors left Konta dropping serve once again to fall behind in the second set. Kerber hung on to her advantage for a short while but the fifth seed found her way back into the set and moved in front in the scoreline for the first time at 4-3.
Konta looked to strike at the perfect time in the 10th game with the world number one serving to stay in the match. The Brit failed to convert on her first two match points and suffered a nasty fall while in the rally on the third. After a lengthy delay as the trainer assessed her for suspected and concussion and an ankle injury, Konta returned to the court and looked rather unaffected by the on court drama once she had calmed herself down. The world number seven got straight back down to business and ripped a backhand cross court winner to move to a fourth match point. A forehand error into the net from the German secured a straight sets victory for Konta.
Up next for the Brit, Karolina Pliskova after she defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-7(7), 6-2, 6-4. It will be a repeat of last year’s semifinal here which the Czech won in three sets.