Britain’s Johanna Konta pulled off a stunning third-set revival on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) as she floored top seed Simona Halep in the biggest upset yet at the shock-prone Wuhan Open.
Now ranked 66 in the world, Konta trailed 5-1 in the deciding set, but then won six games in a row to reach the quarter-finals where she will face Venus Williams.
Williams and Konta will be facing each other for the first time.
Neither could gain a foothold and Williams was broken after a double fault, while Konta failed to serve out the match as the American grittily gained an immediate break back.
“I can’t believe I’m standing here as the victor”.
But the mighty Venus Williams, 35 years old, still with a zest for competition, and in fine physical shape despite her battles with the debilitating Sjögren’s Syndrome, stood in the way of a semi-final place.
Reflecting ahead of the Halep match on the news that she had become the new British number one, Konta said: “It’s obviously nice to hear but it’s not something that I actively think about or spend much time on to be honest”, adding that she needed to be focused on her continuing challenges in China.
What’s more remarkable is that Konta is the first British woman to beat a top two player in almost 34 years.
Halep, who said she could not explain why the match had slipped away from her, gave Konta credit. It seemed like I was finished, but I felt the energy of the crowd behind me.
Now came a switch in momentum, with Konta looking the sharper and Williams’ level dropping a fraction. “Hopefully I can keep playing like this in the next match”.
The unseeded Williams fought back from 5-3 in the final set before serving out the victory.
German Benjamin Becker persevered through early struggles to outlast his sixth seeded French rival Jeremy Chardy 5-7, 6-1, 7-5 in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday at the Malaysian Open, which sees the 34-year-old advance into his first ATP World Tour quarter-final of the season.
Also, fifth-seeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain rallied to beat ninth-seeded Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0.
Muguruza will play either Angelique Kerber or Coco Vandeweghe in the semifinals.
Before the match, Konta had described this opportunity as “a childhood dream”, for Williams was her heroine as a small girl growing up in Sydney.