Johanna Konta kept British hopes of a first Women’s Singles Champion at Wimbledon since 1977 alive after she came through a tough three set battle with 21st seed Caroline Garcia 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals.
The British number one has become the first British woman to reach the last eight at SW19 since Jo Durie in 1984 but was severely tested against the talented Frenchwoman on ‘Manic Monday’ at the All England Club. The sixth seed squandered a break late in the first set but regrouped to take in a tiebreak but was completely outclassed for the majority of the second set. In the decider one break in the final game of the match proved to be decisive to secure a historic win for Konta.
Next up for the Brit in the quarterfinals is the second seed Simona Halep after she recovered from an early break down to defeat Victoria Azarenka 7-6(3), 6-2 and move just one win away from becoming world number one for the first time in her career.
* Article originally published by me for UBITennis.net *
Competing in the second week at Wimbledon for the first time in her career and with the home expectations on her shoulders Konta showed no signs of nerves early on. The British number won the toss of the coin and elected to receive as she often does and it paid dividend as she brought up three break points at 0-40. Garcia had barely had a chance to settle and could only save one before the sixth seed forced her opponent to go long with her forehand.
With the break in hand Konta was full of confidence and held serve well before facing pressure for the first time in the sixth game. The Brit was was pushed to deuce and forced to face a break point after a sprayed forehand went wide. The world number seven played the big points well as she has done so throughout the Championships, finding a big serve down the tee to stave off the danger and hold to restore her two game lead.
Serving for the set, the British number one came under severe pressure down two break points as her second serve came under serious fire, with Garcia hammering the return of serves deep onto Konta’s baseline. The sixth seed had been exceptional under pressure throughout the first week saving the majority of the break points against her and did so again as she found her first serve at the crucial moments. A set point then came and went before the Brit found herself having to face a third break point. In a contentious decision Garcia hit a ball during the rally which appeared as though it had gone long. Konta put her arm up to challenge the call just after she struck her backhand and the raising of her arm was quickly followed by a call of out by a line judge. Hawk-Eye showed the ball to be in by just a couple of millimetres after the Frenchwoman challenged and the umpire deemed that the call did not impact Konta’s shot which went long and awarded Garcia the game and the break back.
The British number one contested the decision but to no avail and had to regroup quickly after the 21st seed held to love to force Konta to serve to stay in the opening set. The sixth seed stepped up and also held to love and made a strong start to the tiebreak after a double fault and passing shot winner gave Konta two mini breaks up 4-1. Being the higher ranked and more experienced player, Konta raised her level and played the bigger points far better than her opponent, sealing the first set with an ace to win the tiebreak by seven points to three. The Brit made just five unforced errors and struck 12 winners to take the one set lead in the match after 55 minutes of play.
The second set was a complete turnaround, that was despite Konta holding her opening service to maintain her momentum. In Garcia’s opening service game a 40-0 lead slipped back to deuce, but the Frenchwoman held under pressure to level at one game all. That was the first of five games in a row for the 21st seed as she began to overpower and outmanoeuvre her opponent, breaking serve twice to take a very commanding 5-1 lead.
Konta was not finished in this set yet and pulled one of the breaks back with a backhand winner which landed just inside of their baseline and the Brit asked the question to test Garcia’s nerve as 5-1 quickly became 5-4. The Frenchwoman was more than up to the task of closing out the set this time around, holding to love, forcing a decider with an overhead smash winner.
The final set was a nervy affair as both players were bidding to reach the quarterfinals for the first time. Contrary to the second set, both players were strong on serve as neither wanted to give an inch or allow their opponent the chance to close in on a last eight berth. Konta had the advantage of serving first as she did against Donna Vekic in her second round clash which she came through 10-8 in the third and deciding set. This allowed the sixth seed to apply pressure on her opponent every time she stepped to the line to serve as the British number one kept herself ahead in the scoreline. Garcia hung tough and resisted but Konta sensed her chance at 30-30 in the 10th game. With it all on the line the Brit came through and collapsed to the floor in sheer disbelief and delight at making the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, her home Grand Slam.