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Konta will have other shots at glory as Venus shows she's a true great

 

By Paul Newman

Virginia Wade's 40-year-old record as the last British woman to win the Wimbledon singles title will stay intact for at least another 12 months as Johanna Konta's remarkable run finally came to an end here yesterday.

At 26 years of age Konta should have plenty more chances to emulate Wade's 1977 victory, but even if she never reaches the semi-finals here again she will at least have the consolation of knowing that she was denied a place in the final by one of the game's all-time greats.

Venus Williams, five times a Wimbledon champion and playing here 20 years after her debut, created her own piece of history by beating Konta 6-4, 6-2 in just 73 minutes to reach her ninth Wimbledon final at the age of 37 years and 29 days.

When she meets Spain's Garbine Muguruza tomorrow Williams will be the oldest player to compete in the final since 1994, when Martina Navratilova was runner-up at 37 years and 258 days.

Even in the absence of her sister Serena, who is expecting her first child, this will be the 14th time in the last 18 years that there has been at least one Williams in the final.

Konta, who was the first British woman to play in a Wimbledon singles semi-final for 39 years, was the favourite for the title but was unable to rediscover the form that had seen her win gruelling three-set battles against Donna Vekic, Caroline Garcia and Simona Halep.

That was largely down to a remarkable display by Williams, who may have lost a little of the speed, athleticism and power that made her such a formidable opponent a decade ago but is still a ferocious competitor who loves nothing more than to play on the biggest stages.

Williams (left) made only nine unforced errors, served with relentless accuracy and hit the ball with wonderful assurance from the back of the court.

Konta strikes the ball with great power, too, but it was Williams who dominated most of the baseline exchanges.

Konta was never able to find her rhythm and found herself under regular attack on her second serves, which Williams punished with some stinging returns and charges into the net.

Williams, meanwhile, delivered a serving master class. Konta, who struggled to cope with Williams' damaging body serves in particular, forced only two break points, both of which the American defended successfully.

"She dictated the match from the very first ball till the very last one," Konta said.

"I think she just showed her true qualities and why she's a five-time champion here. It was very difficult for me to get a good foothold in the match. The few opportunities that I did get, she did incredibly well to take them away from me. I don't think I did too much wrong out there. I think it was all credit to her.

"She looks to dictate from the very first ball. When she puts herself in a position to do that, she plays with a lot of depth, a lot of speed, and you don't get much of a chance to get your grip into the points. So when she is on the offensive, that's where she's her best. If she makes it difficult for you to dictate, then you are at her mercy a lot of the time."

Williams said Konta had played "an amazing tournament" and added: "She showed a lot of courage, played in tough situations against players who were in form. I feel like she wants these majors. She'll have an opportunity. She's played some amazing matches against me as well. They were all well-contested and today was too."

Playing the second semi-final of the day on Centre Court, Williams and Konta might have feared an anxious wait in the locker-room, but Muguruza's 64-minute victory over Magdalena Rybarikova saw the Briton and the American trading blows before 3pm. Under an overcast sky the temperature was a pleasant 22C and there was barely a breath of wind in the air.

The crowd here have huge respect for Williams, but their overwhelming support for the home player was clear from the start. Williams went 40-0 up, but when Konta won her first point with a forehand winner the crowd greeted it with loud and prolonged applause.

At 4-4 the Briton forced her only break points of the match. Williams saved them both with some bold serving, the second of them with a thumping 106mph second serve.

It proved to be the major turning point. When Konta served at 4-5 she was unlucky to lose the first point after a Williams shot hit the top of the net, but on the next two the Briton made costly forehand errors. On the first set point it was Konta's turn to show her courage with a bold second serve, but on the second she hit a backhand beyond the baseline.

Luck also went against Konta when she dropped serve in the fourth game of the second set. Williams went 0-30 up after her shots struck the top of the net on both points, after which Konta double-faulted. The Briton saved the first two break points, but on the third another Williams shot clipped the top of the net before she completed the break.

At 2-5 Konta saved three match points, but on the fourth Williams hit a forehand winner down the line.

Williams paid tribute to the crowd. "I knew that I was playing against the home player, that maybe the crowd could get really loud," she said.

"I thought the crowd was really, really grateful for the great tennis. I didn't feel like they were against me. I just felt like they were for her, that they enjoyed the match. They tried to get her up. It was a really nice atmosphere."

Belfast Telegraph

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