By Derren Howard
Eastbourne’s Johanna Konta produced one of the best performances of her career as she came from a set down to beat two time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.
Konta, the British No.1, thrilled her home fans on centre court at Devonshire Park with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 victory to advance to Thursday’s quarter-finals where she will face either Andrea Petkovic of Germany or Ekaterina Makarova of Russia.
Konta said, “The match was played at a very good level for both of us. I just managed to string together a few more points and I felt I maybe did that better than her. In the second set I had to keep in mind the things I did well and keep moving forward. The crowd were amazing. I’m obviously in a very lucky position that they were cheering for me and I’m very grateful for it. I felt so lucky to be out there having a great battle against a great champion. I definitely raised my level in that third set, I was seeing the tennis ball like a football and I just kind of went with it.”
Konta, 25, played confident tennis from the start against her Czech opponent. She has a few top 10 scalps under belt in recent times and looked at home on centre court against the formidable Kvitova.
Despite some frustrating double faults that continuously put pressure on Konta’s serve, the Eastbourne player took the initiative in the first as she broke to take a 4-2 lead which soon turned to 5-2. Konta, who will be seeded for the first time in her career at this year’s Wimbledon, then served for the first set.
That was a queue for Kvitova to show the form that has brought her two grand slams and semi-final appearances at the French Open at the Australian Open. The Czech played faultless tennis as she rattled off five consecutive games to take an absorbing first set 7-5.
Konta appeared rattled, her accuracy had deserted her and the unforced errors count continued to rise. Last year, on her way to the quarters, Konta beat Ekaterina Makarova who was ranked eighth in the world and Garbine Muguruza who was number 20 but has since won the French Open and rocketed to world No.2. She has also triumphed against world No.2 Simona Halep, Roberta Vinci and Venus Williams all of whom are top 10 players.
Konta talent is not in question but what impressed against Kvitova was her sheer will and determination. She regained the momentum, no easy feat against a classy grass court specialist, and broke to take a 3-2 lead in the second. The break proved decisive as she held her serve for the remainder of the set to the level the scores.
Kvitova took a lengthy time out but when play resumed Konta maintained her intensity and played with freedom that was too much for the Czech and steamrolled her way through the third set to love.
Kvitova said, “She played some great tennis today. It was a tough match and sometimes it does not go your way. The score in the final set does not look good for me. Johanna played very good tennis today. She can go on and win this tournament for sure, why not?”
Top seeded Agnieszka Radwanska advanced in style at the Aegon International on Wednesday, enjoying a comprehensive 6-3 6-3 victory over Eugenie Bouchard. She’ll face No.12 seed Dominica Cibulkova a 7-6 (3) 6-3 winner over Kateryna Bondarenko in the second match on Centre Court on Thursday,
Monica Puig will face Kristina Mladenovic in the opening match on Centre Court on Thursday after the Puerto Rican qualifier defeated 2009 Eastbourne champion Caroline Wozniacki in a close fought three-setter on Centre Court.
“I’m really, really happy with how I have gotten used to the grass courts so far and with pretty consistent results on them, as well,” said Puig. “I stayed with my game plan the whole way and I was extremely positive throughout the match. I’m enjoying the ride and I think that’s what’s helping me right now, having fun doing what I do best and just enjoying every single moment out on the court.”
The fourth quarterfinal will be contested between Elena Vesnina, a 7-6 (2) 6-4 winner over Madison Brengle and the winner of the third round match between Karolina Pliskova and Misaki Doi which will resume first up on Court No.1 at 11.30am with the score poised at 6-2 4-3 to Pliskova.