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Inspired Kvitova poses major threat to my Wimbledon dream, says Konta

 

Chill time: Great Britain ace Johanna Konta with her boyfriend Jackson Wade ahead of a practice session at Wimbledon
Chill time: Great Britain ace Johanna Konta with her boyfriend Jackson Wade ahead of a practice session at Wimbledon

By Andy Sims

Johanna Konta knows she faces an "inspired" opponent in Petra Kvitova in the last 16 at Wimbledon today.

Czech sixth seed Kvitova has breezed into the fourth round at her favourite Grand Slam, which she won in 2011 and 2014.

She is a hugely popular figure at SW19, and hugely respected following her recovery from severe lacerations to her left hand after a violent attack in her home in December 2016.

Konta, who came from a set down to beat Sloane Stephens in round three, said: "I haven't played Petra in a little while. I've only beaten her once, at Eastbourne (in 2016).

"She's a two-time Wimbledon champion. Her favourite surface, and her best surface, is grass, and here at Wimbledon.

"I'm going to be coming up against a very, very inspired and very, very tough Petra.

"She's been playing incredibly well in the last couple of years. She made the finals of Australia this year. I know since coming back from that terrible thing that happened with her, she's playing unbelievable tennis.

"I'm looking forward to playing a great champion, and just looking forward to the match."

Kvitova has yet to drop a set so far, and has spent just over three and a half hours on court.

She used her day off yesterday to rest the arm injury which forced her to pull out of the French Open, as well as prepare to face the British No.1.

"I think for Jo the grass is really going in a good way when she's playing kind of flat shots from both sides, especially from the backhand," said Kvitova.

"I think she likes to play on the grass. Of course, the crowd will be on her side.

"We played last year in Birmingham. I know a little bit how she's playing, what she's able to do. It will be difficult match."

Konta's resurgence began in April when she led Great Britain back into the Fed Cup World Group for the first time in 26 years, and captain Anne Keothavong believes the 28-year-old can go further.

"She's got a great chance," said Keothavong. "She keeps putting herself in great positions. That match against Sloane was a tough one and she did well just to stay with her in the second set and turn things around.

"We've seen that from Jo so much, not just in Fed Cup but outside when her back has been against the wall. But she stays tough and she finds a way.

"Kvitova won't be an easy opponent - we all know how dangerous she is on a grass court. But Jo is in good form, she is feeling confident and will have plenty of support out there. Hopefully that will help her."

Konta is the only British player left in the singles draw. Andy Murray's presence in the mixed doubles will take some of the spotlight off her but expectations are high and will ramp up again if she can beat Kvitova.

Keothavong, speaking at Middle Sunday Opened Up, a free community tennis festival run by the All England Club, LTA and Merton Council, said: "I can't imagine being in her shoes.

"But, knowing the way she is, hopefully those around her will be trying to protect her from a lot of the attention. I can't imagine she'll be reading papers.

"With each year she's more experienced, she knows how to handle the spotlight, she knows how to manage her energy levels and do what it takes to make sure she steps out on court in the best place possible."

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