Wimbledon 2017

Andy Murray and Johanna Konta hit 44-year Wimbledon landmark with French victories

Andy Murray and Johanna Konta are both through to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon after victories over French opponents

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis at Wimbledon
konta
British number one Johanna Konta Photo: Getty Images for LTA

Such is the mental control that Johanna Konta maintains over her tennis life these days—and she famously turned to a sports psychologist a few years ago to turn nervy losses into confident wins—that it is rare to catch her off guard.

But after her tough three-set win over the talented French woman Caroline Garcia, the British No6 seed fell to her knees and bowed her body to the grass. When she rose to take the elated applause, her face told the story: She could barely hold back the tears.

Until this week, Konta had only ever won one match at her home Major, despite making the semis at the Australia Open and the fourth round at the US Open.

It has not been, then, that she cannot find her best on the big stage, nor that she does not have the game for grass. Before Wimbledon, she reached her first grass final in Nottingham, and then the semis in Eastbourne for the second consecutive year. What’s more she beat the French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko and the world No1 Angelique Kerber back to back.

If there was any doubt about her form come Wimbledon, it was connected only with the fall she had against Kerber, in which she injured her back. There has, though, been no sign at all of any physical problems: Quite the opposite. So well has she moved, and so deep has she dug against some tough opposition, that by second Monday, Konta was being touted as one of the favourites for the title.

She started superbly, too, attacking from the start to break, and held the advantage to 5-4, but serving for the set, Garcia broke back, and both held to love to take it to a tie-break. There, Konta found full focus, grooving her serve and taking a 4-0 lead, and served out the set, 7-6(3) with an ace.

Konta went off the boil in the second set as Garcia’s game blossomed, and the French woman broke twice to take a 5-1 lead before the Briton held, and then made a huge backhand winner to break Garcia. Another hold and she had closed the margin to 4-5, but Garcia held serve for the set, 6-4.

The final set was close, with neither woman giving an inch. There were no break points, nor even deuces, until the last 10th game, and Konta grabbed the very first opportunity to convert for the match and her first quarter-final here.

Yes, it was an emotional moment, after 2hrs 10mins. She had become the first British woman in 33 years to reach this stage of the tournament.

She admitted: “It’s very exciting. It’s another step forward to being involved in the event for the full two weeks… I’ve dreamed of it ever since I was a little girl, to be a Grand Slam champion. But right now, I’m in the quarter-final stage. I’m playing against an incredibly tough opponent next. That’s my next battle. That’s all I’ve got my mind on.”

She was then told that the last British woman to win, Virginia Wade, had tipped her to win the title—40 years on. Konta again would not be drawn into such debate.

“That’s something that’s very complimentary. It’s humbling that I have such champions thinking so highly of me. Again, there’s a lot of work to be done between then.”

That next battle is against Simona Halep, who is targeting not just her first Major title but the No1 ranking. Konta has won both previous matches, but both went the distance, most recently in Miami. They have never met on grass though.

Konta was not the only Briton up against French flair for a place in the quarter-finals. Andy Murray took on the unseeded Benoit Paire, and after an up and down first set of break and counter-break, Murray cruised through the tie-break, 7-6(1), and went on to dominate proceedings, 6-4, 6-4.

In the process, he became only the third man in the Open Era to advance to 10 straight quarter-finals at the same Grand Slam. The defending champion has now reached at least the quarter-finals at 24 of his past 26 Grand Slam tournaments.

He was asked about the significant milestone set by Konta and himself of both reaching the last eight, the first time since 1973 that Wimbledon has had a Briton in both main draws at this stage.

“I think it’s great. I think Jo, not just in this tournament, but over the last 18 months, two years, has done great.

“It’s important to have various different role models in the sport, players competing for the biggest events. I do think it makes a difference to the interest in the sport, because a lot of people who follow tennis in this country won’t enjoy watching me play. It’s true, you know.

“People like different game styles, different personalities. That’s important. It’s great that she’s doing well. Hopefully she keeps going the next few days.

Murray will next face Sam Querrey, who beat Kevin Anderson, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-7(11), 6-3. Murray leads their 7-1 in previous matches, including a straight-sets win at the Australian Open.

In the other half of the draw, the seven-time champion and No3 seed Roger Federer set two more new records with his swift and classy defeat of No13 seed Grigor Dimitrov, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. That took him to his 15th Wimbledon quarter-final, overtaking Jimmy Connors’ Open record of 14. Federer also extends his lead over Connors at the top of total Major quarter-finals, with 50.

Federer will face Milos Raonic, No6 seed, who beat him in last year’s semi-final. The Canadian took almost three and a half hours to beat Alexander Zverev, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 6-1, who led by a set and 3-1 before sixth seed Raonic hit back.

Tomas Berdych, age 31, a former finalist and a semi-finalist here last year, beat No8 seed, the 23-year-old Dominic Thiem in yet another five-setter, 6-3, 6-7(1), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. He will not know his quarter-final opponent until tomorrow, however. The last men’s match between No2 seed Novak Djokovic and the unseeded Adrian Mannarino was postponed when the previous contest between Rafael Nadal and Gilles Muller ran to an extraordinary 15-13 fifth set and 4hrs 48mins.

Muller, whose career at 34 years of age has never looked better after winning his first two titles earlier this year and rising to a career-high 26, has reached his first quarter-final here.

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