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Johanna Konta crashes out of Wimbledon to Barbora Strycova

It was all there again for Jo Konta — another Grand Slam semi-final, this time against a possibly vulnerable Serena Williams.


Konta had done the hard work, beaten two higher-ranked players to earn her shot at glory, and then in stepped those twin imposters — her own demons and an unorthodox Czech opponent.

This second shattering defeat in the space of five weeks had plenty in common with the first, which came in last month’s French Open semi-final. Then it was 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova, on Tuesday it was Barbora Strycova.

The outcome was the same, on this occasion a 7-6, 6-1 defeat which denied her a relatively pressure-free swing at the great American.

Few would expect Konta to beat Williams but everyone thought she would overcome Strycova, just as it was believed she would overcome her teenage opponent in Paris.

There was even a memorably missed high forehand volley to give an eerie reminder of Roland Garros. When Konta sealed her own fate on Tuesday by going 5-1 down, she miscued a high ball into the deuce corner — just as she had at the French.

This was her fourth time in the quarter-finals or better at one of the sport’s biggest events and still she cannot summon up the resource to lift herself when the opportunity of achieving something major presents itself. 

At least on this occasion she faced someone who played above herself, because you could not even say that was the case in Paris.

But 4-1 up in the first set against the world No 54 was a position from where the player ranked 15 really should have forged on to victory on Tuesday.

In the final analysis, Konta has had a top-four and a top-eight finish in the last two majors. That is seen as a decent performance in some sports, but ultimately she ended up looking flatter than the hallowed lawn she was playing on.

This might have had something to do with the strain of having to come back from a set down twice in the previous 72 hours.

Konta said: ‘I think everybody who’s at this stage of the tournament is going to be coming into these matches with some fatigue.

‘I’m definitely in that same boat. I played four very tough matches, obviously longer and a little bit more physically demanding matches in the last two. But I felt physically prepared and emotionally prepared to compete.’

This is why winning the fortnight-long tennis tournaments is extremely difficult and why doing so is a ticket to things like a high finish in the Sports Personality of the Year.

Konta has come closer to doing so than anyone would have foreseen during the modest early years of her career, but there is no sign as yet that she can go the extra distance.

All she can do now is to try to rebound in the way that she managed from what happened in Paris and her defiant mood afterwards suggests that she is bracing herself to do so again.

Tennis carries on long after the strawberries and cream have been packed away for another year and already this summer she has reduced her ranking from the mid-forties.

Carrying the hopes of a nation is not easy and she probably cannot wait for Andy Murray to try to make a singles comeback.

All round the Centre Court the tension was palpably raised as the nimble Strycova began to work her way back into the match and it was not long before it had spread all the way to Konta’s arm.

The pivotal game of the match was the seventh of the first set. Konta was leading 4-2 when she pushed two forehands wide into the tramlines while in a dominant rally position.

The Czech went on to break and from there executed her strategy of sliding the ball over the net, keeping it low and dragging Konta forward.

Her highly unorthodox double- handed, sliced backhand was one of the tools she used and it helped exploit the fast-fading confidence the British No 1 was displaying on her forehand side.

In fact, it was reminiscent of Konta’s 2017 semi-final against Venus Williams, when it was also that flank which was worn down under pressure.

The tie-break, in which doubles expert Strycova continued her well-judged forays to the net, was close throughout and concluded in fitting fashion with Konta dumping a forehand into the net.

That was the 16th unforced error from the same shot. The match went away quickly in the second set, Konta increasingly bamboozled.

You could feel some sympathy as her challenge unwound.

Konta is an exemplary professional who has got surprisingly close to the big prizes. It’s the hope that kills you.

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