Wimbledon | Konta takes out Kvitova
Jo Konta proved she was a Woman of Steel as she knocked back the taunts of former champion Marion Bartoli that she was too “fragile” to lift the Wimbledon title.
I feel tremendously grateful to be here and I'm happy just to still be in this event and to be competing against the best players in the world. You can't ask for much more as a professional tennis player Jo Konta
The British No.1 will face Barbora Strycova in a bid to emulate her run to the 2017 semi-finals after surviving a nerve-shredding climax – and an injury scare – to defeat two-time champion Petra Kvitova 4-6 6-2 6-4 over 2hr.25min on Centre Court.
Bartoli, now a Eurosport TV pundit, had said: “Thinking about winning a Grand Slam is a little bit too much for her to handle. She has a tendency to be really fragile, especially her technique, when something goes wrong. Her technique is very stiff so when she gets tight it is a nightmare for her.”
But Konta stuffed Bartoli’s words back down her throat by showing enough ‘bottle’ to come through against sixth seed Kvitova, despite the Czech player reducing the deficit from 5-1 to 5-4 in the deciding set.
She said: “Were there nerves? Of course there was a little bit, but I definitely didn’t put it down to me being nervous. Kvitova started playing really free and hitting through the balls – she was playing really well and I expected it to go to 5-5 at some point. So I was happy to stick with what I was doing well. It was small margins in the end.
“I feel tremendously grateful to be here and I’m happy just to still be in this event and to be competing against the best players in the world. You can’t ask for much more as a professional tennis player.”
Konta had to receive a medical time out for a foot injury, which involved a large purple fan, at the end of the second set.
But she dismissed any concern that it might affect her bid for the last four.
Konta said: “It’s fine, I just tripped over my own foot so it was a little sore and I wanted to give it some more support.”
And she received praise from nine-time champion Martina Navratilova.
Navratilova said “The first serve from Jo Konta was fantastic.
“She wasn’t trying to create too much but she played the big points really well.
“Most of the time the rally was won by whoever got the first big strike in – Konta defended slightly better and she’s deserved to go through.”
It was tit for tat in the opening games, with Konta and Kvitova hitting the ball cleanly and moving well.
Konta had made the second week of the Championships for the second time; making the last four on the first occasion.
And it looked as though Konta was going to make her first step to at least emulating that effort as she held two break points at 4-4 in the first set. It must have crossed her mind, “Take one and I’ll be serving for the set.
But Kvitova blasted back a series of “unreturnables” and the boot was on the other foot. And the Czech broke the 19th seed’s serve to take the lead.
Konta broke the Kvitova serve at the start of the second and after holding at the fifth attempt broke it a second time.
Another hold gave her a 4-0 advantage which edged to 5-1.
She placed a superb backhand lob in the corner in the seventh game before sealing a set point with a Nadal-like backhand cross court. But her Czech opponent saved it and eventually held.
It just delayed the inevitable. After a time out to tend to her left foot, she served out to blistering effect. A service winner brought up another set point which she took with an ace.
After 1hr.31 minutes of absorbing tennis, there was to be a decider.
The momentum had swung in Konta’s favour but Kvitova dug in and held the opening game of the third to love before letting out a roar, maybe one of relief, maybe one to fire herself to re-discover the form she had shown in the first.
But it proved water off a duck’s back as Konta maintained her focus, held and then broke the Czech after a successful challenge to a line call on break point following backhand crosscourt. And she broke her again and led 5-1 before her Czech opponent clawed it back with some booming returns.
A match point for Konta came and went as Kvitova pulled a break back in the eighth game and held for 5-4.
But Konta stepped up to the plate and served out.
Unseeded Strycova sealed her date with Konta by defeating the Belgium 21st seed Elise Mertens.