Screamer helps Konta bury Halep
LONDON — Venus Williams handed out another lesson to one of Wimbledon’s young upstarts when she beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 7-5 on Tuesday to become the oldest women’s semifinalist for 23 years.
The five-time champion, who turned 37 last month, tamed the big-hitting Latvian with a rock-solid performance under the Centre Court roof, winning with something to spare to book a semifinal against Britain’s Johanna Konta.
Ostapenko turned women’s tennis upside down when she rocketed out of the pack to claim her first professional title at the French Open last month and the feisty 20-yearold appeared to be gathering momentum on the All England Club lawns.
A rare French Open/Wimbledon double looked within reach for Ostapenko, who struck 121 winners en route to the last eight.
But old maestro Williams, who had already schooled a 21-year-old and two teenagers en route to her 38th Grand Slam quarterfinal, has seen it all before and barely flinched.
There was a wobble when she dropped serve with a double fault in the second set — giving Ostapenko renewed belief — but she never look ruffled as she reached the semifinals here for the 10th time in 20 visits.
Making her Centre Court debut, Ostapenko was a little more subdued than normal but received a glowing report from the veteran of 75 Grand Slam campaigns.
“She went for a lot of shots. She competed really well. She kept herself really in the game with her attitude. I thought she just did a lot of things really well and kept it close,” said Williams, who made her Wimbledon debut in 1997, a few weeks after Ostapenko was born.
“I had never played her. Didn’t really know what to expect. I was really happy to come out on top.”
Ostapenko, who three years ago served notice of her talent by winning the Wimbledon junior title, said she paid for the slow start that allowed Williams to sprint into a 3-0 lead.
“I was missing a little bit,” said Ostapenko, who tasted defeat for the first time in 12 Grand Slam singles matches.
“I was not playing bad, but I was just not playing the way I wanted to play. I wasn’t serving so well.”
Ostapenko smacked a backhand into the net in the second game to gift Williams a break and the American breezed through the opener in 29 minutes — sealing it when the Latvian completely missed an attempted service return.
Williams secured an early break in the second set, but a double fault allowed Ostapenko to break back and she briefly looked dangerous with some bludgeoning winners.
Ostapenko was two points from squaring the match when 10th seed Williams served at 4-5 but narrowly missed the line with a forehand howitzer at 30-30, to the relief of her opponent.
Williams capitalized on some errors to break in the next game and held to love to claim victory.
Since winning Wimbledon in 2008, her seventh major, Williams has only reached the final here once, losing to her sister Serena in 2009.
Without her younger sibling for company this time, a sixth title beckons, although Konta will be a tough nut to crack with 15,000 home fans roaring her on.
“I’m sure she’s confident and determined,” Williams said. “She’s probably dealing with a different kind of pressure playing here at home. But she seems to be handling it.”
LONDON — Johanna Konta won a place at the Wimbledon semifinal table on Tuesday in a feast of tension-filled tennis, powering past Simona Halep in three epic sets to become the first British woman to reach the final four in almost 40 years.
In a match dripping with tension at one of the most open women’s grasscourt Grand Slams in years, Konta rode a wave of home support to win 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5), 6-4.
The match closed on a surreal note, when the final point was punctuated by a spectator’s scream. Halep lamely netted a forehand as she appealed in vain for a let.
Halep said afterward the match point should have been replayed after the fan screamed out, causing the Romanian to check her stride and shot.
Just as the second seed went into her wind-up on a forehand to stay in the tie, a woman’s loud, piercing shriek echoed around Centre Court — amplified to dramatic effect by the closed roof.
Halep was obviously distracted by the call and looked to umpire Kader Nouni to rule the point to be replayed.
But no call was forthcoming and Konta looked bemused as she walked to the net after her win.
“I thought he was going to repeat the point. I think it’s normal to repeat the point when someone is screaming like that,” said Halep.
“He said, ‘We cannot replay. I cannot change anything.’ So why I should fight?”
Konta, 26, said the scream was just as distracting from her side.
“It was a woman on my end who screamed. I think she was over-excited about the deep ball that Simona hit. It was actually as I was hitting my ball, so I think it more affected me than my opponent,” she said.
“I think the fans were a little over-enthusiastic at times. But I definitely cannot complain with the amount of support and general good feelings that they were wishing my way.”
Konta, seeded sixth, and second-seeded Halep were facing each other for the first time since a turbulent Fed Cup tie in April.
As the rain drummed down outside the roofed Centre Court and avoiding eye contact at changeovers, the pair also had the extra weight of history to contend with.
Konta, working hard to keep her opponent pinned behind the baseline, was bidding to book a date with Venus Williams on Thursday as the first home semifinalist since Virginia Wade in 1978, the year after Wade won the title.
Halep, scampering from wing to wing as she soaked up the pressure, was one match from becoming the first Romanian to top the computerized world rankings — a distinction that, following her loss, passed to Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.
The refined surroundings of the main showcourt were a world away from the tiny stadium on the Black Sea where the two players last met, with Halep winning in straight sets.
Konta became tearful during her other singles match against Sorana Cirstea in that Fed Cup tie, blaming what she called a hostile reception from Romanian fans who Halep this week described as “very fair”.
On Tuesday, the Australiaborn Konta struggled to take it all in — but for altogether different reasons.
“Right now it’s a little bit surreal,” she told the BBC after sealing victory in just under three hours.
“Simona was really not going to give me much for free, so I definitely had to be the one out there to create my own chances and I felt I did that.”
Konta said she was “excited and humbled” to be facing Williams, a match Wade predicted the Briton would win.
“It’s fine to be the last British women’s winner at Wimbledon, but it’s better to have plenty of British players to win,” Wade said in comments released by the All England Club.
“If I get a chance I will tell (Johanna) how well she played and wish her good luck.”