Wimbledon 2017: Johanna Konta faces Venus Williams in semi-final – BBC News

Johanna Konta

Konta had only won one match at Wimbledon before this year

Johanna Konta must overcome five-time champion Venus Williams if she is to become the first British woman to reach a Wimbledon singles final for 40 years.

Sixth seed Konta, 26, takes on the 37-year-old American in Thursday’s second Centre Court match at about 15:00 BST.

It is the first time since Virginia Wade in 1978 that Britain has had a woman in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

Spain’s Garbine Muguruza plays Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia in the first semi-final at 13:00.

Konta is one win from her first Grand Slam final and two from matching Wade’s victory of 1977.

She was rated by bookmakers as the tournament favourite as early as the third round, and her dramatic quarter-final win over Simona Halep attracted the biggest television audience of the tournament so far.

“We all think Jo has got such a good chance to win,” the 72-year-old Wade told the BBC.

“You have to embrace and celebrate for a bit, embrace the exhilaration, but then you have to get right back down to work.

Venus Williams v Jo Konta<!–

“I would have someone else read the newspapers for you and not set eyes on them.”

Hopes of a British double were dashed with defending champion Andy Murray’s defeat by Sam Querrey on Wednesday, but the men’s world number one said: “I hope she goes on to win the tournament.

“She’s certainly got a fantastic chance – there’s no reason why she can’t do it.”

Konta ‘humbled’ by home support

Konta and Williams might be at different ends of the spectrum in terms of Grand Slam experience, but history is on the line for both women in Thursday’s second semi-final.

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My son told me I’d gone viral after Konta selfie

The British player has coped serenely thus far, despite the growing sense of hope and belief among the home crowd.

“In terms of the home support I feel very excited and very humbled by it,” said Konta.

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

Williams, seeded 10th, is on the brink of a remarkable achievement of her own, with the prospect of an eighth major title and first since 2008 looming large.

The American’s age is an obvious talking point – she is the oldest player to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1994 – but she has been a consistent contender in the Grand Slams over the past year.

Having reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon 12 months ago and the Australian Open final in January, age is not a concern for the former world number one.

“When you’re out there, all you’re thinking about – especially at least on my side – all I can control is myself,” said Williams, playing her 20th Wimbledon.

“In the thick of the match, it’s not in your head.”

Kim Clijsters, former world number one: “A lot of people talk about Jo having to deal with the pressure of playing at home, but on the other hand I think it is such a huge advantage at times – if like her you can not be too distracted too much by everything that is going on.”

Sam Smith, former British number one: “Her competiveness, her fitness, the way she has managed her emotions and stayed focused are all weapons that will help Jo massively. Her game is just fantastic at the moment. The serving is awesome and her groundstrokes are so strong – you just never think she is going to miss a backhand.”

Patrick Mouratoglou, coach of Serena Williams: “Venus is back to a great level. She didn’t waste time here, she looks confident, she is playing great and has a lot of physical and mental energy. Johanna on the other side wasted a lot of energy. It’s exhausting physically and mentally. It’s difficult to maintain that every match and at a certain point it’s going to come back to hurt her.”

Serve set to dominate semi-final

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Wimbledon 2017: Johanna Konta beats Simona Halep – highlights

The pair have met five times, with Konta leading 3-2 but Williams having won their most recent encounter on the Rome clay two months ago.

This will be their first meeting on grass, the surface on which Williams won five of her seven major titles between 2000 and 2008.

Konta, in contrast, had just one win to her name in five previous visits to the All England Club before this year.

The Briton leads the Wimbledon aces chart on 28, ahead of Williams on 27, and both women base their games around impressive serves and strong backhands.

The American has made smoother progress through the draw, dropping just one set over the course of five matches and seven hours on court.

Konta has required over 10 hours, winning three dramatic three-set matches along the way.

Ranked 126th in the world when she played at Wimbledon two years ago, she is set to break into the top five after the tournament and would move up to third if she wins the title.

Muguruza faces in-form Rybarikova

Magdalena Rybarikova<!–

Rybarikova lost seven first-round matches in a row at Wimbledon from 2008

Muguruza, 23, has the Grand Slam pedigree in the second semi-final as a former Wimbledon finalist and French Open champion, but Rybarikova is on a roll on grass.

The unseeded 28-year-old has an 18-1 record on the surface this year as she makes her way back after wrist and knee surgery in 2016.

“I was dreaming about it since I was a little kid, to be in the semi-final in Wimbledon,” said the world number 87.

Muguruza is working her way back to the form that saw her reach the final in 2015.

“It means a lot,” she said. “I think a lot of things have to click to be able to win a major. I’m feeling pretty good. I’m being aggressive and not doing a lot of errors.”

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