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Landmark win for British star

LONDON (AFP) – Johanna Konta became the first British woman to reach the Wimbledon semifinals for 39 years on Tuesday, while five-time champion Venus Williams also made history as the oldest semi-finalist since 1994.

Konta thrilled the patriotic Centre Court crowd with a pulsating 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory that ended second seed Simona Halep’s bid to become the new world number one.

In a potentially classic semifinal on Thursday, Konta faces American star Venus.

Williams had her own landmark moment on Centre Court with a 6-3, 7-5 win over French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko that made her the oldest semi-finalist at the All England Club since Martina Navratilova 23 years ago.

Halep’s defeat means Czech Karolina Pliskova, who lost in the Wimbledon second round, will replace Angelique Kerber on top of the WTA rankings.

Konta, 26, is the first Briton since Virginia Wade in 1978 to make the women’s semifinals.

Meantime, Novak Djokovic may wish he had as much time to prepare for his next match as he did for his previous one.

A lingering right shoulder injury flared up in Djokovic’s victory over 51st-ranked Adrian Mannarino in the fourth round at Wimbledon on Tuesday, adding a measure of doubt to his quarterfinal match against 11th-seeded Tomas Berdych on Wednesday.

Djokovic, who won 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4 under a closed roof at Centre Court, had his match delayed from the night before after Gilles Muller needed 4 hours, 48 minutes to defeat Rafael Nadal.

Wade, the last British woman to win Wimbledon in 1977, was watching from the Royal Box as Konta reached the second Grand Slam semifinal of her career, the other ending in a 2016 Australian Open defeat against Kerber.

Born in Australia to Hungarian parents, Konta didn’t move to England until she was 14, switching her allegiance from the country of her birth to Britain when she gained citizenship in 2012.

Adapting to the grass courts of south-west London hadn’t been so easy for Konta, who won just one match in her previous five visits to Wimbledon.

Those failures will seem a lifetime ago to Konta now.

If she wins Wimbledon it will be the first grass-court title of her career, coming just two weeks after she feared her participation in the tournament might be ruined by a back injury suffered in the Eastbourne warm-up event.

Standing in Konta’s way is world number 11 Williams, who was beaten in this year’s Australian Open final and is chasing a first major title since winning Wimbledon in 2008.

Williams, who reached the last of her eight Wimbledon finals in 2009, has now equalled her sister Serena’s total of 86 main draw match victories at Wimbledon, the most among any active player.