Weather wreaked havoc with the Wimbledon schedule on Tuesday, but that didn’t detract from the excitement and quality of play and all of England celebrated the wins of their homegrown hero Jo Konta, and the unofficial Queen of Wimbledon Venus Willams–both moving onto the semis on Thursday.
Venus Williams vs Jelena Ostapenko
It was a match of dichotomies for two of the hottest players on tour this season. The age, history, and regality of Venus, versus the up-and-coming Slam champion, known for her feisty and impetuous but infectious attitude on court. What many expected to be a difficult test for Venus turned into a fairly straightforward win for the five-time Wimbledon champion. In the first set, Venus jumped out quickly–firing three aces in her first service game as to announce to the young Latvian whose centre court it was, and what she would be in for the rest of the match. Venus ran to a 3-0 lead before Ostapenko started to find her way and confidence. The #15 seed’s famously hard groundstrokes started finding depth and pace, but Williams would not have it. Claiming the set on her second break point with a crushing service return.
In the second set, Ostapenko was more focused and more dangerous. Ostapenko held serve to start the set. Venus then held, and broke Ostapenko very matter-of-factly to take a 2-1 lead. The only tension in the match came as Ostapenko broke back to take the set to 3 all as a few more errors started creeping into Williams’ game. Venus’ typically stoic nature steadied her ship and took her to five-all, where her aggressiveness was rewarded with a break to take the lead 6-5. Venus then served it out to claim the set and match at 7-5, never losing a point to Ostapenko in the final hold.
When interviewed after the match about how she could still be so terribly competitive after all these years, Williams replied, “I love this game. There’s no other explanation. That’s why I put in the effort and the time. I try really hard. You do your best while you can. That’s what I’m doing. It’s a beautiful game, and it’s been really good to me.” Williams will be the oldest Wimbledon semifinalist since Martina Navritilova’s magical run here 23 years ago.
Johanna Konta vs Simona Halep
The match that most Brits and tennis fans had circled for today lived up to its billing. With Halep’s chance for the #1 ranking on the line, and with all of Britain’s hopes on the shoulders of Konta, both players brought their best tennis into this epic battle. Historically their matches have been close, tense affairs lasting well over two hours. Today’s did not disappoint. Would Konta’s serve and power win out, or would Halep’s guile, defense, and creativity take the semifinal birth and the #1 ranking.
The first set was an even and tense battle with both of players holding serve easily throughout the set. At times, Konta seemed surprised by the aggression in Halep’s serving, as she couldn’t find many opportunities to attack the Romanian. In the first set tiebreak at 1-1, the players engaged in a long all court rally. After both players moved each other from one side to the other, Konta earned a short ball in the court that she could have gone a multitude of directions with–she chose wrony, hitting the big forehand to Halep who tried to block the ball down the line for a pass that Konta caught for a wicked cross court volley; Halep sprinted down the volley and equaled it with her own cross court dropper behind Konta to take the point and a 2-1 in the tie break. Konta never seemed to catch her breath after that, losing the tie break and set 2-7.
The crowd, which had been boisterous until that moment to say the least, seemed to lose steam some in the beginning of the second set; however, as Konta continue to blast her serve and forehand, the decibels of the crowd under the roof did as well. Throughout the match, Halep asked the referee to remind the crowd to not cheer during the point. The patriotic Center Court fans paid little mind, and cheered Konta on to a tie break. in the second set tie-break, Konta was steady, composed, and aggressive, finding the minibreak and taking the tie break 7-5. In the deciding third set, both players held serve. Halep fought the crowd and Konta’s aggressive baseline play which seemed to continue to amp up behind the volume of her fans. Serving 4-5 and facing match point, Halep was in the mist of a forehand when a fan screamed during the rally. As Halep swung her forehand, she seemed to decelerate expecting a let call that never came. The chair would not entertain Halep’s claim of hindrance and the match ended on that note with Konta becoming the first British woman to reach the semis since 1978.
It will be a difficult semifinal for the Center Court crowd which has always loved Venus Williams so whole heartedly, but will certainly be waving the British colors in hopes of Konta reaching the final on Saturday.