Good afternoon and welcome to women’s semi-finals day, as Serena Williams closes in on yet another title at Wimb ...
*game-by-game writer flings away script used for past 15 years or so*
Sorry. Good afternoon and welcome to women’s semi-finals day, where Maria Sharapov ...
*game-by-game writer throws another well-used script in the bin*
Right, let’s get this right. Good afternoon and welcome to women’s semi-finals day, where the top two pre-tournament favourites, Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova, continue their march towards Saturday’s fin…
*game-by-game writer rips that one up too and is starting to run out of paper, so decides to go for the most tried and tested script of all*
OK, apologies. Good afternoon and welcome to women’s semi-finals day, where there are no British women left, so the nation’s hopes once again rest on Andy Murray in the men’s semi-finals featuring the rest of the big four tomorr …
*game-by-game writer has no paper left so decides to wander around the grounds of the All England Club searching for a Wimbledon DeLorean just in case this is an alternate reality and there is a need to go back in time to sort this sheer madness out*
The date Johanna Konta’s future began was perhaps 7 February 2015. The then 23-year-old, who had won only one grand slam match in her career and had started the year as the world No146, was playing for Britain in the Fed Cup against Belarus. She was consumed by stage fright and lost 6-0, 6-1 to Olga Govortsova.
“She had a bit of a horror,” recalls Judy Murray, who was the team’s captain at the time. “She suffered from really bad performance anxiety and was distraught afterwards. But it really was a question of her recognising that she needed to do something to control her emotions and mind.”
That she did. Konta worked closely with the mental coach Juan Coto, who taught her about the benefits of staying in the moment, controlling only what she was able to on court and the power of the now famed “process”. Seven months after her Belarus blowout, Konta had made her grand slam breakthrough, reaching the US Open last 16, and the following January in the country of her birth, she charged all the way to the semi-finals on her Australian Open debut. By October last year she’d taken her place in the world’s top 10. Few rises in tennis have been so unexpected; it’s not often a decent player who’s been around for several years suddenly becomes a potentially great one, but once Konta’s anxiety lifted, her ability was able to shine.
Coto died a month after Konta broke into the top 10 but his influence has been clear at these championships, as she has calmly come through three superbthree-setters to move within two victories of becoming the first British woman to win Wimbledon since Virginia Wade 40 years ago. Not that she’s letting herself think about Saturday’s final or 1977; it’s all about staying in the now, remember.
Venus Williams has also done a good job of maintaining her mental focus on court this fortnight. Despite her troubled build-up and emotional press conference on the first Monday, the 37-year-old has remained composed during matches, especially during her quarter-final victory over the fearless French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko. Perhaps tennis has been a refuge for her this tournament but for much of this decade it’s been a challenge because of the auto-immune disease she has. An eighth grand slam title and a sixth Wimbledon crown on Saturday, nine years after her last, would be nearly as remarkable as a first for Konta.
Konta v Williams are second on court, after the first semi-final between Garbine Muguruza and Magdalena Rybarikova. Muguruza, the 2015 finalist and 2016 French Open champion, looks to have rediscovered her confidence after a dip in form, while Rybarikova is also on a roll on grass. The unseeded Slovak, who was ranked 453 in the world earlier this year after wrist and knee surgeries, is playing in her first grand slam semi-final, after eight successive first-round defeats here from 2008. Konta could tell her a thing or two about late bloomers.
The players will be on court at: 1pm. Don’t be late.