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Sports Journee

‘I don’t think you need to pick on me’

For the second successive grand slam, Johanna Konta produced a run of fine victories over higher-ranked opponents before coming to grief against a player she had been expected to beat.

Admittedly, world No 54 Barbora Strycova played one of the matches of her life. But she was assisted by Konta’s hard hands and wobbly knees, which contributed to a tally of 34 unforced errors – almost two for every game of the match.

The post-match assessment on BBC television was savage, as John McEnroe and Chris Evert both highlighted Konta’s inability to perform when she comes into one of these big occasions as the bookmakers’ favourite.

“I called her matches against Sloane Stephens and Petra Kvitova and she was looking good enough to win the tournament,” Evert said. “Then she comes out here and I think she froze a little bit. She had all the expectation and all the pressure on her. I think it was almost a given to a lot of the fans she was going to win this match.”

McEnroe then questioned how Konta had allowed her comfortable 4-1 first-set advantage to slip away so dramatically that she won just three of the last 15 games. “It was disappointing to see her fall to pieces after that lead she had in the first,” he said. “I was amazed how many unforced errors she hit. Where was the Plan B? Plan B should be not beating yourself. If you start doing it, you have got to pull back and dig in.”

The disappointment was all the greater because of the high level Konta had achieved in her previous two matches, defending her serve brilliantly to overcome a pair of former grand-slam champions. It was the same story at the French Open a month ago, where she even beat the same opponent – Stephens – on her way to a semi-final against the unheralded Marketa Vondrousova.

There are so many common elements in the two narratives, including the crafty game-styles employed by Konta’s conquerors. Vondrousova was a delicately-built teenager, while Strycova stands just 5ft 5in tall. But both are touch-heavy players who love to throw in a surprise drop shot. For all that Konta enjoys dealing with front-on assaults – as we saw when she outplayed Kvitova on Monday – she is painfully vulnerable to the stealth attack.

Konta acknowledged that “I couldn’t quite find the level needed” but echoed her Parisian stance that she had no regrets. When quizzed more closely on whether she had let herself down at the big moments, she bridled.

“Is that your professional tennis opinion?” she asked. “I don’t think you need to pick on me in a harsh way. In the way you’re asking your question, you’re being quite disrespectful and you’re patronising me. I’m a professional competitor who did her best today, and that’s all there is to that.

“I think I’m very open with you guys. I say how I feel out there. If you don’t want to accept that answer or you don’t agree with it, that’s fine. I still believe in the tennis that I play. I still believe in the way I competed.

“I went out there, I did my best. My best today just wasn’t good enough. But every decision that I made, every thought process, every opportunity that I gave myself, everything, I have no regrets in doing.

“Also my opponent equally earned her right to be in the quarter-finals, as well. And in the French Open equally earned her right to be in the semi-finals against me.

“I don’t have any more of a right to winning these matches than my opponents. It’s unfortunate that it’s worked out like that in terms of how it looks on paper with the rankings.

Barbora Strycova feels the emotion as she defeats Johanna Konta to earn a trip to the quarter-finals Credit: GETTY IMAGES

“Player-wise, they’re probably a little similar. But actually I thought I played better there than in this match.”

On a different topic, Konta was asked about the horrific social-media messages that tennis players receive from disappointed gamblers when they lose. “I definitely have had loads of people wanting me to die,” she replied. “I don’t think that’s new to anyone. I have someone who kind of filters out and blocks and deletes. But, yeah, it’s unfortunate that it’s a part of it.”

Tuesday’s outcome was all the more frustrating because Konta had started so positively. Even though her forehand sprayed a few early errors, she was out of the gate quickly enough to race to a 3-0 lead. Strycova needed 19 minutes just to put a game on the scoreboard and did not hit a winner until she served her first ace on the 36th point of the match. From that moment, though, the balance of power switched dramatically.

Strycova – a 33-year-old tennis trouper who has played 52 previous grand slams without ever reaching a semi-final – used her double-handed slice to upset Konta’s rhythm and showed exquisite touch when she came forward to the net, despite volleying with a similarly bizarre technique.

The world’s third-ranked doubles player, she is a master of all the awkward skills – the dinks, chips and smashes – that the more mechanical Konta finds so difficult to master. Presented with this dexterous and unpredictable opponent, “Robo-Jo” seemed to blow a circuit.

There was a moment of hope in the first-set tie-break when Konta produced two fine points in a row – a rarity in the context of this match. Seeing her opponent advancing, she rifled a backhand past her at such speed that Strycova wound up kneeling on the Centre Court turf. But Strycova answered with another gorgeous dinked volley and stole the set when Konta’s forehand – a liability throughout the first set – found the net.

“I felt I was playing well,” Strycova said as she came off the court. “But at the start she was striking it quick and hard. I try to mix it and I turn it around and started to play better and better.” She still had a doubles match to play, and she won that as well with her even more tricksy partner Su-wei Hsieh, thus moving into the quarter-finals.

In Thursday’s singles semi-final, Strycova will face Serena Williams. Whatever happens, it has been a career-best week, especially for someone who admitted on Monday that this could be her final visit to Wimbledon.


Strycova has to run off to play doubles now

I can’t really believe it. I am extremely happy and my voice is even shaking because I can’t believe it! I have still doubles! So I have to go away! 

I felt like I was playing well, she was striking the ball quick and hard, I tried to mix it up and I start to feel better and better and confidence was building.

This was one of the best matches I play here and I’ve never played on centre-court before! It’s a great week to play Serena Williams, I can’t wait to be on Thursday on court.


Konta 6-7, 1-6 Strycova – STRYCOVA WINS!

Love fifteen says the umpire as Konta manages to claw something back. And then it’s love thirty, which is something I thought I’d do but my twenties were definitely more fun, if not just more energetic. Actually I can afford things these days, which is very handy but there are more responsibilities and speaking of those, Strycova has taken some and gone to the net to make it 15-30. She’s in what some commentators call ‘The Zone’.

Back to 30-30 now. Konta is in trouble. The whirlpool of tennis pulling her in, Strycova spinning the giant spoon around to create the spiral. Maybe that should be racket, rather than giant spoon. Spoon makes no sense.

And that’s 30-40 to Strycova. She can win the match. Here comes the serve… returned, back, back again, and then just as you’d expect, Konta over-hits the shot to hand the match to her opponent! A stunning win for Strycova!


Konta 6-7, 1-5 Strycova* (* denotes next server)

 Big moments coming up. Konta serves well, sends the ball right then left and has to deal with a line call which is never going her way… but I wonder whether it’s a sneaky way to kill momentum. 

Doesn’t matter, Konta’s on it and goes 30-0 up straight after. Konta hits her third Ace of the match for 40-0. And then pulls the shot, hitting it long once more. 40-15.

First serve into the net, then a forehand hit without control for 40-30. Hmmmmmm. She hits the net on the next rally but it drops over, Strycova keeps it slick and is able to volley into the floor for deuce. Uh oh spaghetti-ohs!

Luckily for Konta, the next shot sent her way is knocked long for Advantage. Konta thinks she’s finished the job with a little dink over the net but Strycova’s running… running… RUNNING FAST and she lifts it over the net and beyond Konta for deuce.

Before Konta has even lifted her racket back for her next shot, I already know she’s going to punt it over the line. That’s exactly what happens. The crowd go medium-wild as they offer some encouragement as Konta tries to rescue the match at Advantage Strycova and she runs to the net! A perfectly controlled slice at the net catches out Strycova and we have deuce again.

Double fault. And she’s absolutely goosed this. An easy volley and Konta tries to send it into the crowd. That is against the rules of tennis and because the ball doesn’t land inside the playable bit of the court, she’s lost the game!


Konta* 6-7, 1-4 Strycova (* denotes next server)

Ahhhhhh yes but that’s why Konta stopped going for ‘POWER DRIVE’ on all her shots – Strycova has a feathery sliced backhand shot she can drop at the front of the net whenever she wants to. Konta can’t get to this one in time and it’s 0-15.

Konta’s getting almost as annoyed at herself as I am at her for hitting another ball straight into the net for 0-30. These are almost all unforced errors too. Strycova has to sprint across the court to try and chase some more battered shots but she slips on a bit of grass and goes down. She asks for a penalty and a yellow card but the referee doesn’t care, because this isn’t football and that didn’t happen. 15-30.

Konta still talking to herself angrily as she walks away from another silly shot for 15-40 and you know players are in trouble when they stare at the ground and yell things. Or stare at the sky and yell things. Yelling generally is fine. Strycova makes a mistake for 30-40 then hits her first serve way wide… are nerves creeping in? This is the bit where she needs to apply the killer instinct… but Konta’s misread another shot and the ball is in! We might be in for a shock here… you can hear the murmurs in the crowd. 


Konta 6-7, 1-3 Strycova* (* denotes next server)

Konta starts her ‘must hold’ game by going 0-15 down. A lucky drop off the net doesn’t beat her but by rushing to the net, Strycova’s well placed forehand down the line does…. but it’s out. And then another quick rally for 30-15. Is it happening? Is this the change?

I think it is! Some strong forehands, big smashes to the back of the court force Strycova into trouble and Konta wins. She just needs to Zangief this one, absolutely pummel the ball at her opponent and she’ll win. And she does! And she wins. Secret unlocked: hit the ball very hard.


Konta* 6-7, 0-3 Strycova (* denotes next server)

Strycova is the equivalent of a Pro Evo footballer on an upwards red arrow at the moment. A solid 10 rating where everything she does is working and Konta is struggling to deal with it. She goes 0-30 up quickly but Konta finds a way to get to 15-30. Then Konta hits a shot directly into the net and looks thoroughly wound up with herself for it. 15-40.

Guess what Konta does in the next rally? A gold star for you if you said, out loud in your office, or on the bus, or wherever you are, ‘backhanded the ball into the net’. Game to Strycova!


Konta 6-7, 0-2 Strycova* (* denotes next server)

“Jo looks a bit rattled right now, needs to pull it together” says my handy assistant John McEnroe, as Konta hits another backhand into the net. She’s still going full power on all her forehands but seems to be doubting her accuracy a little bit and is now going straight down the middle rather than to the sides, which is where the other tennis player is not. She’s also overhitting and goes 30-0 down instantly. Then Strycova hits a high defensive lob, Konta tries to bluff she’s going down the line but Strycova’s already read it and gets to 40-0 with a superb forehand. 

Konta turns up on the next rally to power a shot into the corner for 15-40. Aaaaaand she’s been beaten again. The consensus seems to be that Konta has no idea what to do tactically. I suggest hitting the ball over the net more often. Game.


Konta* 6-7, 0-1 Strycova (* denotes next server)

Well the first game of this one flies through even though for a while it’s 40-30. Strycova slows down as she faults her first serve, Konta thinks a lob is going to miss the playable bit of the court but doesn’t and her return is a bit rushed as a result. Strycova can use that to disguise her next shot, winning the first point.


Konta 6-7 Strycova – STRYCOVA WINS FIRST SET

Konta is “being denied rhythm” according to the BBC commentators, and I am shocked to learn therefore that Strycova is from the evil town in Footloose. Konta must destroy her. Unfortunately, dance lovers everywhere watch as Strycova goes 2-0 up quickly before Konta claws a point back by dragging her opponent one way and then smashing across the other side of the court for 1-2.

Strycova challenges a call to go 1-4 up but she was way off and it’s 2-3, which sounds a lot closer than 1-4. Like how £270 sounds less than £300 but is really most of £300. Suddenly the crowd go wild as Konta pulls off a couple of clever backhand returns and Strycova doesn’t react to one, making a high pitched screech kind of noise as she realises it’s 3-3. To be clear, Strycova makes the noise, not the crowd, which would be terrifying.


Konta can’t get to a powerful forehand at the back of the court for 3-4 but recovers for 4-4 and then finally – FINALLY, CLIVE – figures out how to get that sliced backhand shot from Strycova back over the net. A bit like working out how to dodge hadoukens in Street Fighter for the first time. Now she’s sussed it, the match might be in her favour again. But it’s not. Because Strycova has drawn praise from the commentators for a series of shots I am told are of a high skill level to make the score 5-5. 

Strycova gets to 6-5… the Wimbledon crowd give a good bit of encouragement to ‘Our Jo’ but she’s goosed it. She’s thwacked another forehand, for no reason other than ‘tennis’, straight into the net.

“Konta’s got to be furious with herself” says McEnroe.


Konta* 6-6 Strycova (* denotes next server)

Now as I understand it, if Konta gets to seven here, it counts as a touchdown, which is…. good for tennis. But Strycova will have something to say about that. And so does the umpire, who has a chat with the players about a line call but I can’t make out what she’s saying because John McEnroe is on about something. Part of the fun of watching tennis is hearing the sports people do conversations – you don’t get that normally. It’s like they’re breaking the rules of the game.

Strycova has just launched a forehand out of the court and honestly has reacted in a way I haven’t seen a tennis person do before. She sort of staggers like a drunk person getting off a bus that is high from a pavement and makes a noise like an elephant while doing so. Controversial. And that’s 30-15.

Konta can’t sprint to another nonchalant drop shot at the net for 40-15 and Konta then smashes a shot beyond her old nemesis (the baseline) for game.


Konta 6-5 Strycova* (* denotes next server)

Konta has an easy winner “to build confidence”, says John McEnroe, but then messes up a rush to the net and is beaten by another sliced backhand return. 

That turns into a serve slammed into the net at 15-15 and she keeps her game together to shoot down the line and make it 30-15. And a quick search of Twitter later and I dunno what’s happened but ol’ Konta, as she likes to be known, is 40-15 up. An absolutely beautiful forehand across the court is too far away from Strycova to get near and the game belongs to ol’ Konta.


Konta* 5-5 Strycova (* denotes next server)

Strycova goes 15-0 up then Konta slips while rushing to the net to return a drop shot and it’s quickly 30-0. And then 40-0… and Konta is all over the place. She’s in her head, maaaaaaan. 


Konta 5-4 Strycova* (* denotes next server)

Another cheeky sliced drop shot from Konta is good for 30-0 but another unforced error, returning straight into the net from the same place she keeps missing, is 30-15. 

Ooooohhhhh what a shot that was. Konta keeps beasting backhands to the back corner of the court, Strycova keeps getting it back with two hands and then all of a sudden switches the return to a slice drop shot which completely catches Konta out! 

And another one has forced Konta to make her 14th unforced error of the match. That is 30-40… but a wide soft shot, just gently pushed to the line is good for deuce. Hawkeye gets involved but Konta wins the call for Advantage.

Konta manages to avoid anymore of her shenanigans, controlling the rally from the baseline with powerful shots, winning the game.


Konta* 4-4 Strycova (* denotes next server)

One of the line judges shouts “Humppph” rather than ‘out’ or ‘fault’, which must be very distracting. Strycova gets a Hawkeye call dead right and wins a second chance at her first serve, which is an Ace. 

Konta is going full power on these returns, holding down X for as long as she can to launch it at high speed and Strycova ends up having to just flick her racket up to prevent being nailed by the thing, scampering around the back of the court trying to return it. 15-30.

Konta uses a call on a clearly out ball for 30-30, then is a little wide on a shot down the line for 40-30. Konta hits the net for game. How the turntables have… tided.


Konta 4-3 Strycova* (* denotes next server)

Konta puts too much on a forehand and goes 0-15 down but I don’t think that’ll cause her too much trouble. Another smash near the net makes it 15-15, a biiiiiiig forehand gives Strycova zero chance of returning and it’s 30-15, Konta teases left then hits down the line but is just wide for 30-30, and then she gets another one wrong while hitting the forehand once more. That’s 30-40!

And she absolutely shanks the backhand return, putting it way over the backline of the court for game.


Konta* 4-2 Strycova (* denotes next server)

I can’t help but feel if Strycova got her first serves cleanly over the net she’d be having a better time here. Let after let and the second serve is returned with added sparkle to make it 0-15. Then another ball slammed into the net, second served launched directly back to sender and out for 15-15.

Strycova finally gets a first serve over the net and Konta can’t get it back. Told you. I’m a tennis genius. Not unlike Konta who uses some lovely looking backhand slice to control the rally and thumps a forehand top corner for 30-30. 

And another first serve which beats the net. Do that more. 40-30. 

Strycova goes to the net to prevent power forehands beating her and she wins the game.


Konta 4-1 Strycova* (* denotes next server)

Konta’s giving it biscuits with the forehand and Strycova doesn’t seem to quite have the power or technique (no idea which) to get the ball back over the net when it’s smashed hard near her. Konta teases her with the next rally and tries to bounce the thing out of the stadium/tennis arena/court to get to 30-0 but another over-hit makes it 30-15.

And now, since Strycova expects Konta to batter returns to the opposite side of the court, Konta can disguise drop shots. She does that for 40-15 and gets a ‘fifth firework in the fireworks display’ “oooooohhh” from the crowd.

And that’s the game. It’s not that this is easy for Konta, more that Strycova looks to be in a bit of trouble against a much more powerful opponent. Perhaps Konta will slow up a little soon.


Konta* 3-1 Strycova (* denotes next server)

Strycova’s making some big noises as she hits the tennis ball hard across the net and gets to 15-0. Let on the first serve of the next point and Konta tries to send her all over the court, eventually over-hitting and handing a 30-0 score.

Konta smashes another return way over the line and it’s 40-0. Then Konta whacks a double handed return into the net. It’s not meant to go into the net and that means Strycova has won a game.


Konta 3-0 Strycova* (* denotes next server)

Hello. JJ Bull here. I know…. little about tennis and can confirm I’m embarrassingly awful at it. However, Konta is not and she’s gone 30-0 up while Luke steps away from his keyboard. And as I type that she goes 40-0 up with little difficulty.

An unforced smash into the net makes it 40-15. Then it’s 40-30 and Konta goes ‘COME ON’ as the return is long and gives Konta a 3-0 lead. 


Konta* 2-0 Strycova (* denotes next server)

A brilliant return puts Konta 0-30 up before two long forehands from her pull it back to 30-30. A double fault from Strycova gives Konta a break point…would be good to get one early on, obviously. Konta misses a chance for a winner, perhaps should have made it, and it’s back to deuce. Konta’s return works Strycova over and sets up a backhand winner for another break point. And this time it’s converted. First break to Konta. 

Handing over to JJ Bull. 


Konta 1-0 Strycova* (* denotes next server)

Konta gets the first point on the board with a forehand volley at the net. Nice. An unforced error puts her 30-0 up.  An overhit forehand pegs her back at 30 all. An aggressive forehand goes wide from Konta and gives Strycova an early break point, though. Konta brings it back to deuce…and then advantage through some nice variations in the rally. And then, simply enough, it’s a hold and game Konta. 


Barbora Strycova speaks to the BBC pre-match

No words, I have no words [on reaching QF]. When I look back right now it was something I am very proud about myself. I am still in the draw so I am happy but don’t want to be over happy. I didn’t have any expectation because I am 33 years old and I try to enjoy every moment. I am just enjoying myself, really a lot. 

If it’s going to be my last Wimbledon I will have the best memory every. But I don’t want to think about it. I have matches to come…I have singles, I have doubles. I love these kinds of matches. I am enjoying this kind of atmosphere. 


The players make their way out onto Centre Court

 Should be properly underway in about 5-10 minutes. 


Who is Barbora Strycova?

She is unseeded but currently ranks no. 54 in the world. She has a fair record at grand slams. The furthest she has gone in each tournament is as follows: Australian Open, R4 (x3), French Open R4, Wimbledon QF (x2) and US Open 3R (x3). Clearly Konta is favourite here but it could be a tough test against the Czech. 


Johanna Konta thanks Centre Court for giving her ‘energy’ to complete victory 

Johanna Konta thanked Britain for getting behind her as she paid tribute to the “magnificent” Centre Court support which helped her ­secure a place in Tuesday’s Wimbledon quarter-final.

The last remaining home player in the singles played down ankle ­injury fears for her showdown against Barbora Strycova, despite revealing she required medical ­attention for tripping over her foot.

Read more from Tom Morgan here.  



Luke Slater here, to take you through the start of the Johanna Konta vs Barbora Strycova quarter-final. Can she join Serena Williams in the final four? She’s done it before and comes off the back of making the French Open semis not too long ago…

We don’t have long to wait…


It’s almost time for Konta and Strycova to take to centre court

Serena Williams has just beaten fellow American Alison Riske on centre court, which means it’s time for the next showdown. 


The ‘Komeback’ could continue

Konta is increasingly becoming a player who delivers her best performances on native soil – meaning this game could be in her favour. 

Konta suffered a difficult 2018 season, attributing her struggle to burnout, but she’s since turned her fate around. Since leading Great Britain to Fed Cup triumph over Kazakhstan in March she has won 22 of her last 28 matches. 

If ride back up to the top continues, Konta could return to the world’s top ten by autumn. But if she can beat Strycova, she even bigger achievements could lay ahead.


Bookies say Konta is the third favorite for reaching the final 

Odds of Konta reaching the final are 7/4. Ahead are Simone Halep, with odds of 2/15 and Serena Williams, with 1/4.

Johanna Konta has made a persistent comeback this year Credit: GETTY IMAGES



Could Strycova be an unexpected challenge for Konta?

A challenge could lay ahead for Konta, especially considering that Strycova won their previous match in two close sets on hard court in Tokyo two years ago. The unseeded Czech also surprised spectators yesterday after beating the 21st seed, Elize Mertens 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 on court 12.


Here’s how Barbora Strycova shapes up



Could yesterday’s stumble hinder Konta’s performance today?

Konta has played down ankle injury fears after receiving medical attention for her foot yesterday. The Briton tumbled to the ground in the second set of her showdown against Petra Kvitova.

“I just tripped over my own foot, tweaked a little bit,” she said. “It’s actually normal for me. I just wanted to put some tape on it to have extra support. That’s about it … this is quite normal for me. I’ll probably tape, maybe not. We’ll see how I wake up with it. But yeah, it is what it is.”


What Konta said after her victory yesterday

“I think as a British player playing in front of a home crowd or any player to play in front of a home crowd, you’re always going to be spoilt for support, spoilt for just energy that they give you.

“Equally today, I’m really pleased that I got to play an entertaining match for them, as well, because I felt they enjoyed the match.

“That obviously definitely feeds a lot of excitement on court. I enjoy that position to be in. I’m really enjoying playing in front of a home crowd.”


Can Konta make it to the semi final? 

British number one Johanna Konta is about to arrive on centre court for her game against Czech Barbora Strycova. Konta, who bombed out of Wimbledon at the second round last time, is into the quarters this year. As the only Briton left in the running the singles competition, all hopes are pinned on Konta – let’s hope she keeps the home fire burning. 

In the last round Konta managed to beat Czech Petra Kvitova despite a rocky start. Kvitova claimed the first set – usually a difficult position to overcome on grass, but Konta did not let it phase her, showing renewed focus in the second.

Strycova will be the third Czech Konta has faced in five rounds, after Kvitova yesterday and Katerina Siniakova last Thursday. 

Strycova has also proved she is able to persevere when provided with a challenge. Yesterday she was a game from defeat against Elise Mertens, but regained her composure as Merten’s nerves got the better of her. 

At 5ft 5in Strycova is one of the smaller players in the tournament and has been muscled off court in the past. By coming this far in the tournament Strycova has equalled her grand slam best, but this could be her last year on tour – meaning she’s unlikely to go down without a fight. 

But all British eyes will be on Konta, and hoping she can book her place in the semis. Can she channel her energy, and that of the home crowd, to provide her best performance this afternoon? Stay with us here to find out. 

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