By Derren Howard
Johanna Konta’s excellent run at Wimbledon came to end against a powerful Venus Williams on Centre Court.
Konta, playing her first semi-final at SW19, performed well but a determined Williams came through 4-6 2-6.
“Jo gave it her all today,” said Williams. “There was a lot of pressure on her. My experienced helped. She played so well and I just tried to climb on top with every point. The crowd were very nice to me. They were so fair, I know they love Jo.”
The Eastbourne player previously came through a trio of tough three-set matches to reach the last four and the British No 1 looked relaxed in her quest to become the first British female in a Wimbledon final since Virginia Wade in 1977.
All eyes were on Konta as the last Brit remaining in the singles following Andy Murray’s quarter-final loss. Her nail-biting win against Simona Halep on Tuesday was seen by 7.4 million viewers, a record audience for a women’s match at Wimbledon according to BBC figures. Expectations were high across the country and none more so than in her home town of Eastbourne.
There was little between the two in the first set and it was Konta, the number six seed, that forced two break points. At 4-4 in the first, Williams saved one and then fired down a second serve at 106mph to deny Konta the advantage. It proved decisive.
The British No 1, then serving to stay in the set, had a wayward game and conceded three set points. Konta saved the first but then a long backhand gave the opening set and the momentum to Williams, the five time Wimbledon champion.
At 37, Williams is the oldest female to reach a semi-final since Martina Navratilova in 1994 but the number 10 seed showed little sign of slowing up in the second set.
Konta was 2-1 down and Williams forced three break points. The Briton bravely defended twice but the American’s pressure was relentless and the World No 11 took a telling 3-1 advantage.
Pressure at Wimbledon has brought the best out of Konta this year - she was just two points away from defeat against Halep before a rousing triumph.
But Williams, in this mood, on grass is formidable and this time there was no way back. At 5-2 Konta saved two match points but a double fault brought up a third and this time Williams crunched a forehand down the line and powered into her ninth final at the All England Club and her first since 2009. If she wins, Williams will become the oldest Wimbledon champion since 1908. The American will play Spaniard Garbine Muguruza who advanced to the final as she easily beat beat Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1 6-1.
Konta’s proud and brilliant run at Wimbledon was over, for this year at least. It’s worth noting however, the Eastbourne player had never been beyond the second round before this fortnight. She’ll also break into the world’s top five for the first time on Monday.