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Wimbledon

Johanna Konta becomes first British woman to reach Wimbledon semi-finals in nearly 40 years

Sixth seed to face Venus Williams, the oldest woman in a Wimbledon semi-finals, while Novak Djokovic bucks ailing shoulder to advance to men’s quarter-finals

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 July, 2017, 3:16am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 July, 2017, 9:01am

Johanna Konta sealed a Wimbledon semi-final spot on Tuesday after powering past Simona Halep 6-7 (7-2), 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 to become the first British woman to reach the last four in almost 40 years.

The second-seeded Romanian shaded the early centre court exchanges, pouncing on errors and breaking serve to lead 3-0, as the Briton struggled to keep her searing groundstrokes in court.

But with cheers and cries of “C’mon Jo” echoing around the roofed-in arena, sixth seed Konta fought back, cranking up her serve and winning eight straight points to draw level at 4-4.

The contest ended in controversy when a fan screamed out on match point, causing the Romanian to check her stride and shot.

Just as Halep went into her wind-up on a forehand to stay in the tie, a woman’s loud, piercing scream echoed around Centre Court, the sound amplified to dramatic effect by the closed roof.

Watch: Johanna Konta v Simona Halep highlights

Halep was obviously distracted by the call and looked to umpire Kader Nouni to rule the point to be replayed.

“It was a woman on my end who screamed. I think she got over-excited about the deep ball that Simona hit. It was actually as I was hitting my ball, so I think it more affected me than my opponent,” insisted Konta.

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“I think the fans were a little over-enthusiastic in parts. But I definitely cannot complain with the amount of support and general good feelings that they were wishing my way.”

Supporters in the 15,000-seat centre court roared on home favourite Konta throughout the match.

Halep won the first set on a tiebreak with Konta, having squandered a clutch of break points, returning the favour in the second.

The intensity moved up a notch in the third set as the Briton hit harder and the Romanian tightened her defence, before Konta broke in the fifth game and held her nerve to serve the match out.

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Virginia Wade was the last British woman to reach the semi-finals in 1978.

Konta’s opponent will be American Venus Williams, who handed out another lesson to one of Wimbledon’s young upstarts when she beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 7-5 to become the oldest women’s semi-finalist for 23 years.

The five-times champion, who turned 37 last month, tamed the big-hitting Latvian with a rock-solid performance under the centre court roof, winning with something to spare.

Ostapenko turned women’s tennis upside down when she rocketed out of the pack to claim her first professional title at the French Open last month and the feisty 20-year-old appeared to be gathering momentum on the All England Club lawns.

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A rare French Open/Wimbledon double looked within reach for Ostapenko who had struck 121 winners en route to the last eight.

But old maestro Williams, who had already schooled a 21-year-old and two teenagers en route to her 38th grand slam quarter-final, has seen it all before and barely flinched.

There was a wobble when she dropped serve with a double-fault in the second set to give Ostapenko renewed belief, but she never look ruffled as she reached the semi-finals here for the 10th time in 20 visits.

Making her centre court debut, Ostapenko was a little more subdued than normal but received a glowing report from the veteran of 75 grand slam campaigns.

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“She went for a lot of shots. She competed really well. She kept herself really in the game with her attitude. I thought she just did a lot of things really well and kept it close,” Williams, who made her Wimbledon debut in 1997, a few weeks after Ostapenko was born, said.

“I never played her. Didn’t really know what to expect. I was really happy to come out on top.”

In the men’s side of the tournament, a lingering right shoulder injury flared up in Novak Djokovic’s victory over 51st-ranked Adrian Mannarino in the fourth round, adding a measure of doubt to his quarter-final match against 11th-seeded Tomas Berdych.

Djokovic, who won 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 under a closed roof at centre court, had his match delayed from the night before after Gilles Muller needed four hours and 48 minutes to defeat Rafael Nadal.

“It’s been something that I’ve been dragging back and forth for a while now,” said Djokovic, a three-time Wimbledon champion and 12-time grand slam winner. “But I’m still managing to play, which is the most important thing.”