LONDON (Agencies): Johanna Konta released her racket and slumped to her knees after becoming the first British woman to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon for 33 years and looks every inch a potential winner here.
It was a hard-fought battle against Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia but the No6 seed betrayed no sign of nerves as she completed a 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4 victory.
Asked what it felt like to become the first British woman since Jo Durie in 1984 to reach the final eight, Konta broke into a grin. “That’s pretty special,” she told the BBC. “I’m very excited about that and really looking forward to the fact I get to play here again.”
She will not say it as plainly as this but Konta believes she can be the first British woman to win Wimbledon since Virginia Wade, exactly 40 years ago. After every victory here she has spoken of her hope that she can be involved for the entire fortnight and is playing as well as anyone.
In a tight match it was Konta’s fearsome focus, particularly at the pivotal moments that proved the difference. She saved six of nine break points and produced big serves when she needed them most.
“There was very little between us out there,” said Konta. “I think it’s those situations that I dreamt of when I was a little girl and being part of those battles on big stages.”
Beginning play with the dubious honour of being the bookmakers’ favourite for the title, Konta burst out of the blocks, going up a break in the first game of the match. After setting up three break opportunities, she converted the second with Garcia pushing a forehand long and then held with ease to race to a 2-0 lead.
But Garcia is no slouch. As a 17-year-old wildcard at the French Open in 2011 she gave Maria Sharapova a scare in the second round, prompting Andy Murray to Tweet his belief that he was watching a future world No1 in action.
Now 23 and the 21st seed here, she has not yet lived up to Murray’s predictions but gave Konta a headache, setting up three break points as the Briton served for the opening set.
Konta saved the first with a crushing cross court forehand and the second with a crackerjack serve but came unstuck on the third. Garcia hit a backhand into the corner which was called out but the decision was overruled by hawk eye. A furious Konta believed the point should have been replayed but the umpire was unmoved.
But Konta recovered her composure for the tie-break, which she won 7-3. It looked like being a straight sets victory but Konta was broken in third game of second set, to a cry of allez from the Frenchwoman and again in the fifth game.
There was a suggestion from Andrew Castle in the BBC commentary box that Garcia’s coach and dad Louis-Paul was coaching from the box with hand signals, an illegal practice in grand slam competitions. His daughter certainly seemed to respond to his urgings, whether they were direct orders or not, as she levelled proceedings.
There was little to pick between the players in the deciding set but Konta had the advantage of serving first. As so often with tennis it was decided by a couple of points and two netted forehands by Garcia gave Konta the decisive break and a victory which puts her one step closer to a famous title.