By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) – Johanna Konta became the first British woman to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals since Jo Durie in 1984 when she outlasted Caroline Garcia of France 7-6(3) 4-6 6-4 in an evenly-matched baseline battle on Monday.
Konta had previously won only one match in five Wimbledon appearances. But after racking up her fourth in this tournament, she now finds herself facing Romanian second seed Simona Halep and, with the woman’s draw looking wide open, has an outside chance of becoming the first home champion since Virginia Wade 40 years ago.
The sixth seed, who spent her formative years in Australia before moving to play in Spain as a 14-year-old and then becoming British in 2012, put on an efficient display, albeit with a big wobble in the middle, to overcome a tenacious foe.
Konta was always on top in the first set despite having to take it via a tie break, when one amazing reaction forehand return to a Garcia smash had the sun-baked Number One court crowd roaring their appreciation.
Konta, famously controlled on court, did not get carried away with the success, however, and seemed equally calm when she lost five games in a row en route to Garcia taking the second set.
Her coach Wim Fissette has suggested she might try breaking out of her on-court “neutral zone” in a bid to take the next step in her career. But the 26-year-old Konta seemed content to stay in her bubble and showed almost no reaction to success or failure or the crowd’s attempts to lift her.
She and Garcia play with a similar style, serving solidly and often dropping to one knee to get as low as possible for their deep ground strokes, and there was little to differentiate them in the final set.
Serve dominated to such an extent that the first break point did not arrive until the 10th game, but when it did, Konta took full advantage as Garcia netted.
“It was such a tough match to play, she is in impressive form, it’s hard to get any rhythm when she’s serving so well and gets her first strike in,” Konta said.
“I was happy that I was able to get enough returns in that final game.
“When I was a little girl, and even now, I dreamt of being in these battles and on the big stages.”
Durie, who lost to Hanna Mandlikova in her 1984 quarter-final, tweeted her congratulations, saying: “Well done @JoKonta91 fab match & welcome to the Last 8 Club.”
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)