(Reuters) – Britain’s Johanna Konta enjoyed an extraordinary day, beating French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko then overcoming a bad fall to defeat world number one Angelique Kerber and reach the semi-finals of the Aegon International at Eastbourne on Thursday.
With Kerber losing, Simona Halep could have taken over the German’s top spot in the world rankings if she had gone on to reach the final of this event but the Romanian missed out by losing to Caroline Wozniacki in three sets.
Konta, Britain’s big hope in the women’s draw at Wimbledon starting next week, proved the main attraction as she beat two grand slam winners in the space of a few hours.
Two days of rain delays at the south coast grass court event had left a punishing two-match schedule for most of the players but Konta rose brilliantly to the challenge, first overcoming Ostapenko 7-5 3-6 6-4 before later eclipsing Kerber 6-3 6-4.
Konta’s victory over top seed Kerber, though, was accompanied by high drama when, while holding match point, she slipped and fell heavily on to her back while also hitting her head on the ground.
Lying on the turf and initially sobbing from the shock and the pain, the British number one needed treatment as the match was halted for 10 minutes amid fears she might not be fit to continue.
Kerber was so concerned that she came around the net to help her distraught opponent yet, remarkably, the groggy Konta rejoined the fray and won the next two points to set up a semi-final on Friday against Czech third seed Karolina Pliskova, who beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-7(7) 6-2 6-4 in their quarter-final.
“I slipped and hit my head and it’s a bit sore,” Australian-born Konta, whose family moved to Eastbourne when she was a teenager, told the crowd.
“It’s been a busy afternoon, we’ve played a lot of tennis and I’m looking forward to recovering the best I can.”
Konta, set to become the first British woman ranked in the world’s top 10 at Wimbledon since 1984, had earlier rallied from a break down in the deciding set to end newly-crowned French Open champion Ostapenko’s eight-match winning streak.
Fifth seed Konta then won the final four games and saved a break point in the tense last one, in which the 20-year-old Latvian also saved two match points, before clinching victory in two hours 18 minutes.
Wozniacki fought back from a set down against Halep to win 5-7 6-4 6-1 and reach the last four, where the Dane will meet another Briton Heather Watson, who beat Czech Barbora Strycova 6-1 1-6 6-4 in the other quarter-final.
Sixth-seeded Wozniacki said: “She (Halep) came out with some amazing shots and I lost the first set, and she had the momentum in the second. But I kept grinding and kept digging in there and somehow managed to turn it around”.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin and Ian Chadband; editing by Ken Ferris)