Johanna Konta insists there’s only one mission at Wimbledon – and it isn’t revenge.
Konta reached the rarified air of the All England Club’s last eight with a professional and nerveless 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 victory over France’s Caroline Garcia.
It’s the first time a British woman has made the quarter-finals since Jo Durie in 1984 but Konta has proved a pro when it comes to keeping a lid on emotions and dialling down expectations.
Next up is Romania’s Simona Halep, the number two seed, who needs just one more win here to secure world number one status.
She was a semi-finalist three years ago and reached the final of the recent French Open at Roland Garros.
But Konta has won both their previous tour encounters, including a hard-fought three set quarter-final victory on her way to her career highlight success at this year’s Miami Open.
However, she lost tamely to Halep in a controversial Fed Cup tie in April, during which Konta was reduced to tears by the behaviour of Romanian team captain Ilie Nastase and a braying mob in Constanta.
Konta has neither forgiven nor forgotten Halep’s team-mate Sorana Cirstea, who was outspoken in her criticism of the British number one, after their tie was suspended when Nastase unleashed a torrent of abusive language and stoked up the home crowd.
“I’m playing against another tennis player, another opponent. I’m not playing against a crowd and I’m not playing against a past experience,” said Konta.
“People can say what they like but they were not in my shoes that day, they were not being verbally threatened. I think it’s very difficult for them to understand my position in it.
“However, it’s many, many months ago now. I’m looking forward to playing against Simona.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to play against one of the best in the world, and to really enjoy being in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon.
“We have some knowledge on each other. She’s very much in form and playing very, very well, she’ll definitely challenge me.”
Halep did her best to avoid the topic when cross-examined after her confident 7-6, 6-2 win over double Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka.
“I don’t want to comment about that match but I’m sorry if she felt bad,” said Halep, who is unlikely to find the genteel Wimbledon crowd similar to the braying mob they last played in front of.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for me. She’s a good player but I know that it’s going to be a very difficult match. I believe that I have a chance and I’m ready for it. I’m not expecting it to be emotional but I am expecting a battle.”
Garcia was once tipped as a future world number one by Andy Murray but her career has so far failed to ignite.
She showed flashes of potential and posed plenty of questions but Konta usually had the answers, collapsing to her knees when converting the decisive match point after just over two hours of play.
It wasn’t one-sided but when the match got tight, Konta seemed to channel her focus. She saved a succession of break points with some crushing forehand winners and, second set aside, produced the big serves when needed.
In her first four rounds she has shared the spotlight with Andy Murray but with the men’s and women’s singles now running on alternate days, she finds herself all alone in the full and burning glare of national expectation.
But Konta looks stronger and stronger with every match, with Virginia Wade – the last British woman to win Wimbledon 40 years ago – joining her growing fan club and claiming this could be her year.
“It’s humbling that I have such champions thinking so highly of me,” she added. “Again, there’s a lot of work to be done to be in a position to be playing for the Wimbledon title.
“I’ve dreamed of it ever since I was a little girl, to be a Grand Slam champion. But right now I’m only at the quarter-final stage. I’m playing against an incredibly tough opponent and that’s all I’ve got my mind on.
“I’ve said it time and time again, I can only go out there and do the best that I can.
“I approach pressure in a very self-imposed way. There’s only certain things under my control. That’s the approach and the effort I put into every single match that I play.”
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