Tennis

Konta relishing test with childhood idol Williams

Johanna hoping to end Britain's 40-year wait for a Wimbledon women's singles champion

Johanna Konta says she is living a childhood dream and now, the woman standing in her way of a first Wimbledon final is Venus Williams - one of the players she grew up aspiring to emulate.

Konta battled back to win a pulsating encounter with Simona Halep 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 and became the only British woman to make the singles semi-finals at SW19 since Virginia Wade in 1978.

It means the British No. 1 has earned a shot at Williams, the resurgent 37-year-old and five-time Wimbledon winner and, on this evidence, many will rate her chances highly.

Halep lost her way to lose the French Open final to Jelena Ostapenko last month and yesterday morning's (Singapore time) defeat means she surrendered the chance to become the world No. 1, a position that will be taken up by Karolina Pliskova on Monday.

But the Romanian could not be accused of another meltdown on Centre Court.

Konta, 26, won it with her commitment to an aggressive baseline game and a mental fortitude that these days make her one of the toughest competitors around.

This result matches her best previous run at a Grand Slam, when she reached the semi-finals of last year's Australian Open.

Her sights are now firmly set on ending Britain's 40-year wait for a Wimbledon women's singles champion.

"I've dreamed of success in every Slam, but I think it makes it more special because it is home," Konta said.

"I do get that home support, which I don't get anywhere else. In that sense, I guess it makes it that much sweeter.

"In terms of the home support, I feel very excited and very humbled by it.

"When you get a massive crowd of people cheering, making that sort of noise in a stadium, you do get goosebumps."

Wade was happy to see her record go, saying: "I'm just surprised it's taken so long. It's fine to be the last British women's winner at Wimbledon but it's better to have plenty of British players to win."

Williams had already underlined her own title credentials on Tuesday by brushing aside Ostapenko 6-3, 7-5.

The American, seeking an eighth Major crown, will replace her absent sister Serena as the oldest women's Grand Slam winner if she goes all the way.

Serena is taking a break from tennis to give birth to her first child.

In a professional career lasting more than two decades, Williams is also closing in on a 50th WTA title and credits her longevity to a love of the game and a desire to constantly improve.

"I love it," said Williams, the oldest semi-finalist at the All England Club since Martina Navratilova 23 years ago.

"I try really hard. There's no other explanation. You do your best while you can. That's what I'm doing.

"I love the challenge. I love pressure. It's not always easy dealing with the pressure. There's constant pressure. It's only yourself who can have the answer for that.

"I love the last day you play, you're still improving. It's not something that is stagnant. The competition keeps you growing. You have to get better if you want to stay relevant."

William's last Grand Slam title came at Wimbledon in 2008. - WIRE SERVICES

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