Wimbledon 2017: Ice cool Konta books British semi-final slot after 39 year wait

Johanna Konta was keeping calm while all around her were losing their heads.

Konta had only won one Wimbledon match in six before this year’s Championships but is now just one victory away from becoming the first British finalist here in 40 years.

In just five matches she’s embedded herself in the nation’s sporting consciousness with her icy and disciplined brand of stubborn tennis.

Plucky used to be the adjective of choice for British players at the All England Club but Konta – with her strength of mind and firmness of purpose – is a different class to those that have come before.

These are giddying days but Konta is firmly rooted in the reality. Nothing is won yet.

But spare a thought for Simona Halep, who needed a victory to secure her place as world number one but went down 6-7 7-6 6-4 as Konta became the first British woman to reach the Wimbledon singles semi-finals since Virginia Wade in 1978.

“I’ve always believed in my own ability, ever since I was nine years old, and I’ve always dreamt big,” she said.

“But I’m much more process-orientated, so I don’t give myself too much time to dream. I’m more focused on the work.

“I knew Simona wasn’t going to give me much for free and I had to create my own chances and I took a few of them. I felt consistent in my approach and just continued to trust in myself.

“To be in the semi-finals of my home Slam and to play like that in front of a full Centre Court was pretty special. It was a tremendous match, played at a very high level.”

There were moments of controversy. Konta took an extended comfort break before the third set leaving Halep kicking her heels on the baseline and the game finished in bizarre circumstances.

With Konta looking to convert her first match point, she picked up a shot on the baseline as a spectator let out a scream, a confused Halep duly putting a limp forehand into the net. Game over.

“They might have been over enthusiastic in parts but I can’t complain with the good feelings they are giving me,” she added. “It’s a part of sport that the crowd will get excited and sometimes too involved and it’s something we are all used to.

“When you get a massive crowd of people cheering for you, it gives you goosebumps.”

Wade watched from the Royal Box as Konta produced the performance of her career to beat an opponent many consider the best all-rounder in women’s tennis.

The charge against Halep is she struggles to handle the pressure but the same accusation can’t be made against Konta, who has shown remarkable fortitude to come through three of the most gripping matches at this year’s Championships.

Next up is five-time winner Venus Williams, a 37-year-old enjoying a renaissance, who certainly won’t be overawed by the occasion or nerves.

The pair have played five times and Konta narrowly leads their head-to-head, beating her in the semi-finals en-route to winning her career best title at the Miami Open earlier this year.

For the fourth time in five matches the British number one reversed the result of a recent defeat. Su-Wei Hsieh, Donna Vekic, Caroline Garcia and Halep had all beaten her last time out – and revenge was duly served when it mattered.

And Williams – for those who like such omens – beat Konta in their last encounter in Rome earlier this summer.

“She’s a tremendous champion and I feel humbled to share a court with her,” added Konta.

“What Venus and her sister have given our sport is tremendous, they’ve elevated women’s tennis to a new level and that’s truly inspiring.

“We’ve had some battles in the past and she got the better of me last time but this is the first time on grass and that’s a big challenge.”

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