Johanna Konta defeats Petra Kvitova to progress at Wimbledon
Johanna Konta positioned herself as a title contender at Wimbledon by knocking out two-time former champion Petra Kvitova to reach the quarter-finals for the second time.
Two years after setting British fans dreaming of a first home female singles champion since Virginia Wade with her run to the semi-finals, Konta is once again into the latter stages.
The 28-year-old recovered from a set down for the second successive round to beat Kvitova 4-6 6-2 6-4 and will face another Czech, unseeded Barbora Strycova, in the last eight on Tuesday.
Seventh seed Simona Halep is the highest-ranked player left but Konta rejected the idea that this is a golden opportunity, saying: "Every person that's still in the draw, there's a reason why they're still in the draw. The eight best players of this tournament are still playing."
There had been major doubts about Kvitova's fitness prior to the tournament, with the 29-year-old not having played a match since before the French Open because of a left forearm problem.
But she had won her first three matches in straight sets and came out firing on Centre Court.
Kvitova is one of the purest strikers of a tennis ball on tour and she crunched 11 winners in the first five games. She then saved two break points at 4-4 with strong serving before breaking Konta to win the opening set.
But Konta changed the momentum immediately with a break to start the second set and was quickly 4-0 up.
Kvitova was making a lot more errors and Konta was ruthless, winning five games in a row to lead 5-1 in the decider.
Things became decidedly nervy when Kvitova claimed three games in a row to get back to 5-4, saving two match points on the Konta serve, but the Brit served it out at the second time of asking.
Konta insisted she had not been as tense as the crowd, saying: "I actually felt quite fine. The way it went from 5-2 to 5-4 was very much on Petra's racket. She played very freely in the end. The balls were coming like bullets.
"There's not much that I did wrong there. I actually thought I did quite well in trying to stay with her and trying to close it out in that 5-2 game. However, I also felt equally comfortable and confident that I was still doing the right things. I was either going to get another opportunity or I wasn't really."
Konta's win continued her superb record in deciding sets this season. The 19th seed has now won 14 of the last 15 matches in which she has been taken the distance.
"Obviously that's something I can be really proud of," she said.
"To know, even if it's just for myself, that I have the capability to stay there as long as I need to for however long, even if losing the first set, I know I have every opportunity to get back into the match."
Konta has now made back-to-back grand slam quarter-finals after her run to the last four of the French Open, and is certainly playing her best tennis since making the semis here two years ago and possibly even better.
"I'm not one to really compare myself to myself or to anything really," she said.
"Obviously the experience that I had in 2017 was a magnificent one. It was something that is incredibly special to me.
"Equally how I'm doing so far, I'm just really pleased with the level I'm playing, how I'm competing, how I'm really just trying to find a way in each match that I play. I'm playing very tough matches against very tough opponents.
"Overall I'm enjoying this tournament for what it is, how I feel like I'm still building on each match that I'm playing."
Konta will undoubtedly be the favourite against 33-year-old Strycova, ranked 54, although the Czech did win their only previous meeting in Tokyo two years ago.
"She's a very crafty player," said Konta. "She knows how to mix up the game. She knows how to play on this surface. I'm just looking forward to playing another great player. It's nice to be in the quarter-finals of a slam again."