Johanna Konta relishes Wimbledon clash with idol Venus Williams

Johanna Konta is relishing the prospect of facing childhood idol Venus Williams. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Johanna Konta is relishing the prospect of facing childhood idol Venus Williams. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images
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Johanna Konta says she is living a childhood dream and now she must beat her childhood idol as Venus Williams stands in the way of her reaching a first Wimbledon final.

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Konta battled back to win a pulsating encounter with Simona Halep 6-7 (2/7) 7-6 (7/5) 6-4 and become the only British woman to make the last four of the singles at SW19 since Virginia Wade in 1978.

It means the British number one has earned a shot at Williams, the resurgent 37-year-old and five-time Wimbledon winner, and on this evidence many will rate her chances highly.

Halep lost her way to lose the French Open final to Jelena Ostapenko last month and this defeat means she surrendered the chance to become world number one, a position that will be taken up by Karolina Pliskova on Monday.

But the Romanian could not be accused of another meltdown on Centre Court.

Konta won it, with her commitment to an aggressive baseline game and a mental fortitude that these days makes her one of the toughest competitors on the tour.

This result matches her best previous run at a grand slam, when she reached the semi-finals of last year’s Australian Open, and she now has her eyes on ending Britain’s 40-year wait for a female singles champion.

“I’ve dreamed of success in every slam but I think it makes it more special because it is home,” Konta said.

“I do get that home support, which I don’t get anywhere else. In that sense, I guess it makes it that much sweeter.

“In terms of the home support, I feel very excited and very humbled by it.

“When you get a massive crowd of people cheering, making that sort of noise in a stadium, you do get goosebumps.”

Wade was happy to see her record go and said: “I’m just surprised it’s taken so long. It’s fine to be the last British women’s winner at Wimbledon but it’s better to have plenty of British players to win.

“It’s a win-win situation frankly and I’m thrilled for her. I know how much pressure there is.”

Williams had already underlined her own title credentials on Tuesday by brushing aside Ostapenko 6-3 7-5, and the American looks the most likely of the semi-finalists to win as she seeks an eighth major crown.

Konta once looked up to Williams as one of the players she aspired to emulate but the Briton will fancy her chances on Thursday, having won three of their five previous meetings. Williams beat Konta most recently, at the Italian Open in May.

“I think what Venus and her sister (Serena) have given our sport is absolutely tremendous,” Konta said.

“The way they’ve elevated women’s tennis is truly inspiring. So I feel very excited and very humbled to be sharing the court with her again.

“She got the better of me the last time we played, so I’m really looking forward to playing her.”

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How Johanna Konta’s went from Sydney childhood to British Wimbledon favourite:

2002: Sydney-born Konta is scouted by respected Australian coach Pete McCraw to join an elite training squad.

2004: Tennis Australia cuts its funding and Konta is not among players given extra support.

2005: Moves to Spain to train at Barcelona’s Sanchez-Casal Academy, where Andy Murray also played.

2006: Relocates to England to be closer to parents living in Eastbourne.

2012: Granted a British passport and handed a wild card for the Wimbledon main draw but loses in the first round to Christina McHale.

2014: Begins working with Spanish coach Esteban Carril and sports psychologist Juan Coto. Briefly breaks into the world’s top 100 for the first time.

2015: Enjoys breakthrough run to the fourth round at the US Open and finishes the year inside the top 50.

2016: Backs up US Open run by reaching the Australian Open semi-finals and winning first WTA title in Stanford. Climbs inside the world’s top 10 and hires Wim Fissette, former coach of Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka.

2017: Wins second and third WTA titles, in Sydney and Miami. Becomes first British woman to reach Wimbledon singles semi-finals since Virginia Wade in 1978.