The semifinals have been confirmed as two British players make the final four, coming through some difficult opponents at the Aegon International. Johanna Konta started her day beating reigning Roland-Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko in a topsy-turvy three sets match and then played her quarterfinal hours later, where she toppled the current World No.1 Angelique Kerber in straight sets, 6-3 6-4.
Konta’s win over Kerber is her best ever win – with the victory over Agnieszka Radwanska in the Sydney final being the next best, where she blew her off the court. Konta started off the better against the World No.1 Kerber. She quickly shot into a double break lead, which wasn’t entirely surprising given the confidence that Konta has built in the last two years and the fact that Kerber is still looking to settle into the top of the WTA rankings. Konta’s in the better headspace after the Nottingham final and it showed in the early phases of the match.
Kerber salvaged one of the breaks back, but dropped her serve on the ninth game on Konta’s first set point to give up the first set. The biggest shock came in the conclusion of the second set, where the British No.1 took a nasty fall, where she looked to have hurt her back then landed heavily on her head. This happened on Konta’s 3rd match point. Kerber went on the other side of the court to check on her opponent, but would go on to lose the next two points and the match on resumption.
Kerber talked about Konta’s fall in press and expressed how the fact that Konta is alright is the overriding feeling over anything that happened in the match: “No. No, and you don’t want that happen like this. I mean, I didn’t know what exactly happened, but she told me that she, I don’t know, slide and with the head on the floor. But yeah, I mean at the end it’s good that nothing happen. I think this is the most important thing.”
Luckily Konta confirmed that it was nothing serious after receiving medical attention after the match: “I’m feeling actually not too bad. I got checked out and I’ve got no signs of concussion. That’s the most important thing. Just got a bit of a sore head. I slipped and fell backwards. First my back and then my head went back on the ground.”
Konta now faces Karolina Pliskova, who beat her at the same stage of the tournament twelve months ago.
Heather Watson achieved her greatest result on the WTA in over a year and she has come through some top, experienced WTA players this week including Dominika Cibulkova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Barbora Strycova. Sometimes a player can accomplish great singular achievements and then fail to back that win up the following match, but Watson’s biggest ever win in terms of ranking was followed by two unbelievable victories.
I spoke to Watson after her packed day of action and reminded her that she’d actually said in Birmingham that she felt like she was losing tight matches, but playing well and that she felt a good run of results was imminent. Her reaction was great: “Uh-huh, I did say that. (smiling) Yeah I have been waiting on it and it’s come now. Yeah, the last couple of months I have really been putting in the work on and off the court, and I felt really good on the court in practice, and it’s just building that confidence and momentum with match wins. I have had a few here and there, and now it’s just really come together and I feel great on the match court. I feel confident. I feel like I’m moving well, seeing the ball well and being aggressive.”
Watson’s next opponent is Caroline Wozniacki, a former champion here in Eastbourne, who plays very well at this event every year she plays. Wozniacki would be the favourite in that semi-final, but Watson will have the attitude that if she can beat the names she’s beat this week and she knows how to get the better of the Dane (beat Wozniacki in Monterrey 2016) then there’s no reason why she can’t repeat the feat in front of the British crowd.