Johanna Konta and Heather Watson soar through to semis on hectic day in Eastbourne
Elliot Cornish for Tennis Atlantic
Johanna Konta and Heather Watson surged into the semi-finals of the Eastbourne International, both claiming third round and quarter-final victories within a matter of hours on a bumper day.
Konta battled past French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko in three gripping sets before downing world number one Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-4 to conclude the day’s play, as she thrived on the Centre Court billing. Watson was left to work her magic on the outside courts, but strolled past 14th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 6-3, and then overcame Barbora Strycova 6-1 1-6 6-4 in an encounter full of momentum swings.
Konta will now meet last year’s runner-up Karolina Pliskova in the semis, after the Czech bounced back from a 4-2 deficit in the final set to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova. Pliskova’s third round victory triumph came courtesy of a straight sets win over Peng Shuai; Kuznetsova reached the quarter-final stage with a victory over Kristina Mladenovic.
Watson will go up against former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, after the Dane rallied from a set down to take out Simona Halep 5-7 6-4 6-1. Wozniacki had previously beaten Elena Vesnina 6-1 6-2 in the third round, while Halep sneaked past Tsvetana Pironkova 6-7(6) 7-6(4) 7-5.
In the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic edged Donald Young 6-2 7-6(9) to reach the last four, but was made to work in the second set, with Young unable to convert while serving for it. The Serb’s semi-final opponent will be Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who secured two impressive wins over Robin Haase and fourth seed Steve Johnson, both in three sets.
Meanwhile, Richard Gasquet showcased perhaps his best form of the season, dispatching Kevin Anderson 6-4 6-4 in the early morning, before coming back to take out another big server, John Isner, 6-3 6-2 in rapid fashion. An all-French last four clash was ensured by Gael Monfils, who returned after seeing off British wildcard Cameron Norrie to defeat Bernard Tomic 7-6(4) 6-0 on Court 1 in the quarter finals.
Konta brings Ostapenko down to earth
Ostapenko, fresh from her French Open win, came into her third round match against Konta full of confidence, not least as a Grand Slam champion but by winning her last five tour matches in final set deciders.
The Latvian assumed early control, breaking at the first opportunity with her incisive backhand causing numerous problems for Konta. However, the Brit dug in and got back into the contest, before snatching the opener on her third set point against the Ostapenko serve.
Konta looked to strike decisively early in the second, and almost broke Ostapenko early, but the steely 20-year-old kept swinging hard and confidently, and reaped the rewards by breaking in the seventh game, and handily once more at 5-3 to eliminate the pressure of serving for the set.
Ostapenko seemed in control, but faltered from 40-0 up to drop serve in the third game of the decider. Yet Konta was unable to seize on her rival’s mistakes, losing her next two service games as a fiery Ostapenko established a 4-2 advantage.
But in typically unpredictable WTA fashion, the Roland Garros victor capitulated from thereon. Most costly for Ostapenko was her forehand, which splayed numerous errors, although an errant ball toss – which she should have caught – contributed to an all-round malfunction as Konta gladly accepted consecutive breaks. She then eventually snuck over the line on her third match point, to the delight of the home crowd.
Djokovic impresses against Young before scraping through
Djokovic’s duel with Young was certainly a match of two halves, with both responsible for the fluctuations. The opening set would have been precisely what the Serb was hoping for from his stay in Eastbourne, cruising through it 6-2 and appearing at ease.
But the past 12 months have been far from plain sailing for the 12-time Slam champion, and Young’s improved level combined with a Djokovic drop off made for a tasty second set. The American proved tougher, saving two break points early on to keep up. However, as the crunch point arrived, a few signs of Djokovic’s frailties emerged, particularly on the forehand – a shot he got stuck and collapsed on at times. Young grabbed a break to move 5-4 up as Djokovic wobbled, but he stumbled too as the latter broke back after saving a set point.
A tight tiebreak followed, with Young getting another set point at 6-5, however he did little wrong, with Djokovic serving big out wide. An untimely double fault for Young at 9-9 was pivotal though, as Djokovic got the win in one hour and 37 minutes.
The women’s semi-finals and men’s semi-finals will be played in that order on Centre Court on Friday.
Wildcard Watson and Wozniacki start things off at 11am and will be followed by Pliskova v Konta.
Djokovic and Medvedev will take to the court not before 1pm, before Gasquet and Monfils round off the Centre Court action in what strikes as the match of the day.
In the doubles, Bob and Mike Bryan play Andre Begemann and Andres Molteni first on Court 1 in their semi-final, with Robin Haase/Dominic Inglot v Rohan Bopanna/Andre Sa due on for theirs simultaneously on Court 2. The men’s doubles final is scheduled last on Court 1 on Friday.
Ashleigh Barty/Casey Dellacqua v Timea Babos/Andrea Hlavackova are second on Court 1 for the women’s doubles semis, and will be followed by Nicole Melichar/Anna Smith v Yung-Jan Chan/Martina Hingis.