Johanna Konta became the first British woman to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals for 39 years on Tuesday, while five-time champion Venus Williams also made history as the oldest semi-finalist since 1994.
Konta thrilled the patriotic Centre Court crowd with a pulsating 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory that ended second seed Simona Halep’s bid to become the new world number one.
In a potentially classic semi-final on Thursday, Konta faces American star Venus.
Williams had her own landmark moment on Centre Court with a 6-3, 7-5 win over French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko that made her the oldest semi-finalist at the All England Club since Martina Navratilova 23 years ago.
Halep’s defeat means Czech Karolina Pliskova, who lost in the Wimbledon second round, will replace Angelique Kerber on top of the WTA rankings.
Konta, 26, is the first Briton since Virginia Wade in 1978 to make the women’s semi-finals.
Wade, the last British woman to win Wimbledon in 1977, was watching from the Royal Box as Konta reached the second Grand Slam semi-final of her career, the other ending in a 2016 Australian Open defeat against Kerber.
“Right now it’s a little bit surreal just because it’s quite incredible how quickly things go in tennis. I’m definitely digesting things a little bit still,” said Konta, who was ranked outside the top 150 two years ago.
“I knew Simona was not going to give me much for free. I had to be the one to create my own chances. I feel fortunate enough that I took a few of them.”
Born in Australia to Hungarian parents, Konta didn’t move to England until she was 14, switching her allegiance from the country of her birth to Britain when she gained citizenship in 2012.
Adapting to the grass courts of south-west London hadn’t been so easy for Konta, who won just one match in her previous five visits to Wimbledon.
Those failures will seem a lifetime ago to Konta now.
If she wins Wimbledon it will be the first grass-court title of her career, coming just two weeks after she feared her participation in the tournament might be ruined by a back injury suffered in the Eastbourne warm-up event.
Standing in Konta’s way is world number 11 Williams, who was beaten in this year’s Australian Open final and is chasing a first major title since winning Wimbledon in 2008.
Williams, who reached the last of her eight Wimbledon finals in 2009, has now equalled her sister Serena’s total of 86 main draw match victories at Wimbledon, the most among any active player.
“I love this game. That’s why I put in the effort and the time. It’s a beautiful game. It’s been so good to me,” said Venus, who is bidding to break Serena’s record as Wimbledon’s oldest champion in the Open era.
“The competition keeps you growing. You have to get better if you want to stay relevent. I love the challenge.”
Having stunned the tennis world by becoming the first unseeded player to win the French Open last month, Ostapenko was riding an 11-match winning streak at the majors. But the 20-year-old was the youngest player left in the tournament and Venus has scythed through the draw by dispatching a series of opponents almost half her age.
Twenty years after making her Wimbledon debut, Venus was playing in her 100th singles match at the All England Club, while Ostapenko was in only her eighth.
That gulf in experience was apparent as Venus cruised through in serene fashion.
Garbine Muguruza powered into her second Wimbledon semi-final in the last three years with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Russian seventh seed Kuznetsova.
Since winning her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open last year, Muguruza has struggled to return to the top and this is her first major semi-final since that Roland Garros triumph.
“I played good. I’m trying not to think a lot, just go for it and play my game. I’m happy it worked out,” Muguruza said.
Muguruza, beaten by Serena in the 2015 Wimbledon final, faces Slovakian world number 87 Magdalena Rybarikova in the last four.
Rybarikova became the lowest ranked woman to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals for nine years as she shocked American 24th seed Coco Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-3. The 28-year-old, who had lost in the first round in eight of her previous nine visits to Wimbledon, said: “I would never ever believe I could be in the semi-final before this tournament.
“I’m really speechless. I’m so happy and grateful.”
Simona Halep has branded Karolina Pliskova a worthy world No1 after the Romanian lost her Wimbledon quarter-final to Johanna Konta, missing out on a chance to ascend to the top spot herself.
Halep was one win away from the summit of the rankings but fell 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 6-4 to home favourite Konta in a 2hr 38min battle on Tuesday.
The No2 seed also had the opportunity to get to No1 had she won her French Open final last month but ended up losing to an inspired Jelena Ostapenko, despite leading by a set and a break.
Asked about Pliskova’s imminent rise to No1 when the new rankings are released on Monday, Halep said: “She’s playing really well. This year she already has few titles won. I feel she deserves to be there. She has the best serve, I think, after Serena. So well done to her. She played really well this year. I think she’s happy now.”
Halep and Konta produced a high-quality affair, playing under the Centre Court roof, on a rainy day at SW19.
The match ended on a sour note as a spectator screamed mid-rally, thinking Halep had hit a long ball, and it distracted the Romanian, who then committed an error and lost the match.
Umpire Kader Nouni would not replay the point.
“I thought he’s going to repeat the point. I think it’s normal to repeat the point when someone is screaming like that,” Halep calmly said after the match when asked about the incident.
Asked why she didn’t protest longer, she added: “Because he said, ‘We cannot replay’. I cannot change anything. So why I should fight?”
The 25-year-old admits it was a frustrating defeat, but “not more than the final in French Open”.
She hit 26 winners against just nine unforced errors through the match and saved six of eight break points she faced.
“I think was close to the best, maybe the best (match I played on grass),” said Halep. “I thought my level was pretty high also hitting the balls, serves, how I served, and also the moving. Maybe I should stay a little bit more closer to the line. But she was hitting pretty strong. I think was a great match. I take the positives.”
Halep continues to suffer near-misses on the grand stage but she remains proud of her performances this fortnight.
Asked what positives she takes from Wimbledon, she said: “That I played so well after disappointing moment in French Open. I was able again to fight till the end. I played well, so my game is there. I’ve been okay.
“These are the positives. I cannot complain about anything because she played well today, and she got the match, she won the match.”
And on the disappointment of once again missing out on getting to No1, she said: “It’s nice to be in the top 10 for so long time. I’m really pleased with my performance. Of course, one of my goals is to get to No1. But I had another chance here. I was close, I could say. But doesn’t affect me that much because I think I have many years ahead. So maybe I will have more chances. I’m close, so I have just to keep working.”
World No8 Svetlana Kuznetsova thinks on-court coaching, which is allowed at WTA tournaments, should be introduced to the Grand Slams, the Russian said following her quarter-final exit at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
The two-time major champion fell 6-3, 6-4 to 2015 runner-up Garbine Muguruza, in a match that witnessed an incident that was perceived by Kuznetsova’s coach Carlos Martinez as illegal coaching from the Spaniard’s camp.
Grand Slams do not allow any form of coaching during matches and Kuznetsova said Muguruza was receiving some information from her physio during the match.
“I could hear that because it was pretty clear because we all speak Spanish here. She was talking to her all the time. But it’s her physio. I mean, I know she acts like this all the time. I know that. I don’t think it’s appropriate, but okay, I was focused on my game,” said Kuznetsova of Muguruza.
“My coach says it’s elements of coaching. The thing is, the same umpire gave my coach a warning last year for telling me, ‘Vamos, vamos’. Then this girl was talking to Garbine during the match. She didn’t say anything to her. That probably what surprise him a lot.”
While many players are against on-court coaching, and prefer to stick to the solitary nature of the sport that forces a player to figure things out for themselves while battling through a match, Kuznetsova thinks it makes the sport more appealing for fans and should make its way to the Grand Slams.
“I don’t see why not. I think it’s great these coaches can work more their job. It’s more interesting to the fans. I don’t see why not. I mean, I’m not here to complain, whatever they were doing on the court. Garbine played very good game today. And I think she deserved to win, because I didn’t play so well,” explained Kuznetsova.
The US Open qualifying tournament will experiment with some form of on-court coaching but in a different way to how it’s done on the women’s tour, where coaches visit their players during changeovers.
In New York, the event will experiment with coaching from the stands, mid-match, where players can talk to their coaches if they are on the side from which they’re serving, and can signal back and forth with them, if they are on opposite sides.
On the WTA tour, some coaches cover their microphones so fans on TV cannot hear their conversations with their players during changeovers, which is actually against the rules.
“I think it all started because of the TV. I don’t think (on-court) coaching started because of the players,” said Kuznetsova. “I mean, I think the scheduling is made for the TV. Many times who make the schedule, they don’t care about the players. It’s sad, but it’s true.
“This is a thing. If the fans not going to hear (the on-court coaching visits), it’s not going to be there.
“The same thing, like I finish last night at 7:00 to play doubles. I check the schedule. I was really mad. Because why do I play first, not second? When I ask the question. They said, Because of the TV.
“The TV is more important for the tennis than the players, probably.”