Johanna Konta became the first British woman to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals for 39 years after the greatest victory of her career to date.
After beating world No 2 Simona Halep, of Romania, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 in a thrilling match, she said: “To be in the last four of my home slam, and to do that in front of a full centre Court, it’s pretty, pretty special.”
The victory on a rain-battered day was hailed by Virginia Wade, Britain’s last winner of the tournament in 1977 and the last to reach the semis the following year, who said: “It was an absolutely stunning performance. The pressure that she kept applying was relentless, it was brilliant.”
Konta will play five-times Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, pictured, tomorrow for a place in the final. Asked how Konta should approach the biggest match of her career, Wade said: “I hope she relaxes and does her baking and manages to cocoon herself a little bit – but that’s some hope because everyone will be after her.”
The Centre Court faithful had almost forgotten what it was like to have a British woman perform this well at Wimbledon and Konta herself was almost shocked when the match was won. “Tennis is a funny thing. Things happen very quickly,” she said. “It was one of those moments where I was like: ‘Oh, okay, we’re finished. I’m walking off the court.’”
There was controversy over match point. The crowd had just been warned to keep quiet during the rallies when Halep was disturbed by a scream and struck her shot into the net. “I was surprised that the lady was screaming,” Halep said. “I thought he [the umpire] was going to repeat the point. I think that’s normal when someone is screaming like that.”
Konta, who described it as “part of sport” when crowds got over-excited, said: “I think the level of tennis that both of us played today, it was just a tremendous match.”
Konta added that Halep was playing “magnificently” and was a player who “gives you so little”.
Konta paid tribute to her former mind coach, Juan Coto, who had worked with her in 2014. He committed suicide last year. “Juan was a tremendous influence on me,” she said. “That went beyond my tennis career. It was more about me as a human being. He did a tremendous job with me in working on my happiness as a person, as a human being, dealing with life in general.”
Of Williams, she said: “What Venus and her sister have given our sport is absolutely tremendous. The way they’ve elevated women’s tennis is truly inspiring.”