The number six seed, Johanna Konta and the number ten seed, Venus Williams have progressed through the bottom half of the draw to meet in a blockbuster Wimbledon semi-final match set for Thursday. While Williams will be bidding to reach her 9th Wimbledon final, Konta will be going for her first ever Slam final.
V.Williams d. Ostapenko, 6-3 7-5 (QF)
Delivering a stunning display of serving, Venus Williams snapped Jelena Ostapenko’s winning Slam streak at 11 matches. Williams made a bright start with three aces in the first game and then immediately got the first break of serve. Ostapenko struggled with a few ball tosses and took some time to adjust to her first outing on Centre Court. It was all about serve and return for Williams – her first serve was brilliant and she was ultra-aggressive on Ostapenko’s second serves. The key stat in the first set was Ostapenko’s first serve percentage at just 44% and winning 43% of points behind her second serve.
Ostapenko was blasting winners, as we’ve been accustomed to seeing, and she held at the start of the second set with one of the shots of the match, a forehand on-the-run from way outside of the court that she arrowed down-the-line for a spectacular winner. I was impressed how Williams was never phased by Ostapenko’s shotmaking. Williams had the early break in the second set, which she lost on a double fault down break point. Ostapenko began to take charge and there was a sense this was heading the distance as she moved ahead on serve.
Williams was down *4-5 *15-30, but reacted with a gorgeous serve down-the-tee, one of a few which moved away from Ostapenko for a glorious ace. Two more decent serves saw Williams level up at 5-5. Williams broke Ostapenko’s serve in the very next game with the Latvian player offering up a trio of shots into the net, before serving out the match, in style, to love.
This was another stunning performance from Williams who has spent practically her whole tournament playing the up-and-comers and young talent on tour. Ostapenko finished with a better winners to unforced error differential, but it was Williams’s serve that was the key factor – she hit 66% first serves in and won 78% of points behind it. Once again, experience prevailed.
Konta d. Halep, 6-7(2) 7-6(5) 6-4 (QF)
What a match! From a set down and two points away from defeat, Johanna Konta battled terrifically in a high-pressure situation to beat Simona Halep in three thrilling sets. Konta recovered from a break down at *1-4 to force a first set tiebreak. Halep was solid, but passive during the first part of the tiebreak and went 4-2 up on the changeover after a drive volley disaster from Konta. Halep outlasted Konta from the baseline and then became more aggressive at the end of the tiebreak. It was a fabulous set for Halep to win considering that Konta had landed 89% of first serves in.
Konta held from *0-30 down in the first game of the second set and just kept plugging away. The Brit was beginning to dictate more and more of the rallies, and was more assured closing points up at the net. Konta missed two break points at 4-3, both with missed returns. Konta also came close to the lucrative break at 5-4 where, having missed a lot of returns, she got a few into play, yet couldn’t finish off the points having built them so well.
Into another tiebreak and it was so intense – edge-of-your-seat tennis! A backhand lifted long by Kont meant that Halep was within two points of the match at *5-4 in the tiebreak. Konta held her nerve and won the last three points to force a decider. For Halep, I think she’ll remember those points at the end of the second set tiebreak where she became very passive. Konta was ultimately rewarded for being the bolder of the pair and going after her shots.
After a lengthy toilet break for Konta, the third set went with serve until Konta chalked up two break points at 2-2 *40-15 – having missed returns on most of her break points, Konta got a meaningful return into play and forced the error from Halep to break. She consolidated with a love hold and back-behind winner. Halep’s intensity noticeably dropped in the decider.
Serving for the match, Konta opened with a nervy forehand long. She followed it up though with a couple of great points – a backhand cross-court winner and a passing shot winner with Halep making a move forward. I’m gutted about what happened on match point as a lady screamed out loud during the rally with Halep dumping a ball in the net. Neither player deserved that ending.
A fantastic performance from Konta who battled so hard – a key stat was that she won 24 of 32 net points up at the net. This was another tough loss for Halep. Thrilled for Jo, but feeling bad for Simona!
Head-to-head record: Konta leads the head-to-head, 3-2 and the pair are split at 1-1 in 2017 encounters – Konta toughed out a tight two setter in Miami, 6-4 7-5, while Williams snapped a three match losing streak to the Brit with a 6-1 3-6 6-1 win on the clay courts of Rome. The pair have never played each other on grass.
Final thoughts: Considering Konta came into Wimbledon with a slight injury cloud after that fall in Eastbourne and having never previously made it past the second round of Wimbledon, she’s done a remarkable job. Konta has battled through three gruelling three setters, holding her nerve in some tense moments. The Brit has also had to deal with the media bubble surrounding her and I must say, she’s handled it all remarkably well. Everything will ramp up for the semi-finals.
Williams had a lot of stuff going on off the court, but she has looked so assured on it and dropped just the one set during this week in the second round against Wang Qiang. The serve has been fantastic and she’s shown her experience to see off some younger and huge hitting players. The way she handled Ostapenko, and did not let the winners flying past her phase her, really impressed me.
Both are looking in good form and have been serving well during the tournament. The crowd will obviously be behind Konta but I doubt this will phase Williams. Konta has dominated the head-to-head on hard courts and i’d guess the grass will favour Williams compared to previous matches.
Of all the matches so far this week, this is *the one* where i’m really struggling to pick a winner. Normally writing the preview helps and looking at the stats too, but it has made it no clearer for me!
Right now i’d say I am 51-49 in favour of Venus but honestly, on the fence with this one…