Wimbledon quarterfinal preview: Johanna Konta vs Simona Halep

Johanna Konta is flying the flag for Great Britain at her home Grand Slam Wimbledon. The Brit rose to prominence two years ago starting with a deep run in Eastbourne, and she would go on an unbeaten run at ITF Events. The Brit backed up her performances by reaching the second week at a Grand Slam in 2015 for the first time at the US Open when she defeated Garbine Muguruza in the second round. She would eventually lose to two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the fourth round. Nevertheless, she reached the semifinals at a Grand Slam for the first time at the Australian Open in 2016 when she upset Venus Williams in the first round. Her remarkable run ended at the hands of eventual champion Angie Kerber in the semifinals in straight sets.

It is a truly remarkable rise for the sixth seed who was always in the shadows of compatriots Heather Watson and Laura Robson who have flirted around the top 40 before but they have since struggled to live up to expectations. Nevertheless, Konta will be participating in the quarterfinals for the first time in her career at SW19 after the second round was her best result last year. The Brit is also bidding to become the first British female winner to win Wimbledon since Virginia Wade, 40 years ago back in 1977.

Konta's quarterfinal opponent at Wimbledon will be the second seed Simona Halep. The Romanian has bounced back remarkably well after losing the French Open final in which she was in total control of. She was a set and 3-0 up and had points to gain the double break for 4-0 against Jelena Ostapenko. It was a tough loss for the Romanian but she has rebounded well at SW19.

Halep will be contesting her third quarterfinal at Wimbledon and she reached the semifinals in 2014 losing to Eugenie Bouchard after a run to the final of the French Open. It could be deja vu for the Romanian but there is a big prize on the line. World number one Angie Kerber had the reach the final to retain her world number one status but she lost to Garbine Muguruza in the battle of the last two runner-ups on No.2 Court. If Halep beats Konta on Centre Court, she will become the world number one for the first time in her career. Furthermore, if Halep fails to reach the semifinals then Karolina Pliskova will be the world number one despite losing in the second round for the fifth successive year.

Konta's route to the quarterfinals

The 26-year-old began her Wimbledon campaign on No.1 Court against Su-Wei Hsieh. The player from the Chinese Taipei upset Konta in the first round of the French Open but Konta gained her revenge with a comprehensive, 6-2, 6-2 victory over her. However, in the second round, Konta played arguably one of the best matches in the ladies' singles draw of this year's Championships in the second round against Donna Vekic. The 21-year-old dispatched the Brit in the final in Nottingham but this time it was Konta who was on the winning side, 7-6(4), 4-6, 10-8 in a contest that lasted three hours and ten minutes. It was Konta's first-ever victory on Centre Court, and she reached the third round for the first time. It was a straightforward, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Greece's Maria Sakkari, who was coached by British pundit Mark Petchey.

The Brit's projected fourth round opponent was two-time champion Petra Kvitova but she lost in the second round to Madison Brengle. Brengle lost to 21st seed Caroline Garcia in the third round. Therefore, it was the dangerous Frenchwoman who Konta would face on Manic Monday. Garcia came into Wimbledon full of confidence after reaching the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam for the first time, achieving it at the French Open. Nevertheless, her and Konta had two wins apiece, and it was the sixth seed who won on No.1 Court, 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4 becoming the first British woman since Jo Durie in 1983 to participate in the last eight at SW19.

The Brit is the bookmakers favourite to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish on Sunday (Photo by David Ramos / Getty)
The Brit is the bookmakers favourite to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish on Sunday (Photo by David Ramos / Getty)

Halep's route to the quarterfinals

It was always going to be interesting to see how Halep would rebound after her loss in the French Open final, and she has moved through the draw smoothly at SW19. The Romanian is one of three players left in the draw that has not dropped a set en route to the quarterfinals. She dropped five games in her first round victory over Marina Erakovic, and she overcame a spirited Beatriz Haddad Maia, 7-5, 6-3 on No.1 Court. Surprisingly, the second seed has not played on Centre Court at this year's Wimbledon but she sent 2014 US Open semifinalist Shuai Peng packing in the third round.

In the fourth round, the two-time French Open finalist was up against two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka. That match is a Centre Court or No.1 Court quality level match but it was pushed onto No.2 Court due to it being Manic Monday with the round of 16 matches in both the men's and women's singles set to be completed. Nevertheless, Halep defeated the former world number one, who was participating in just her second tournament after becoming a mother. It was a 7-6(3), 6-2 victory over the Belarusian, and a third quarterfinal appearance in the process at SW19.

Halep will have a lot of pressure and she was one set away of becoming the world number one in Paris but couldn't get the job done (Photo by Shaun Botterill / Getty)
Halep will have a lot of pressure and she was one set away of becoming the world number one in Paris but couldn't get the job done (Photo by Shaun Botterill / Getty)

Their history

The two top ten players have met only twice with both encounters taking place on hard courts. Konta won their first meeting in Wuhan back in 2015 and it was a three-set triumph, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. Their second clash was at the Miami Open in the quarterfinals which Konta won, 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-2. The Brit went on to defeat Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki, and she claimed the biggest title of her career at the Premier Mandatory-level event.

Who reaches the semifinals?

This is a huge opportunity for both players to clinch their first Grand Slam final. In fact, none of the participants left in the draw will feel nervous about reaching the quarterfinals, as seven of the eight players have gone beyond the quarterfinals at a Slam. Magdalena Rybarikova, the conqueror of pre-tournament favorite Karolina Pliskova is the only unseeded player in the draw and the only one who has not reached the semifinals at a Slam. Konta's passage through to the quarterfinals coupled with Andy Murray's passage through to the quarterfinals on the men's side means for the first time since 1973 there is a male and female representative from Great Britain in the quarterfinals.

Konta will need to continue to play the way she has been throughout the tournament by serving well and utilizing that backhand which can hurt Halep. The Brit moves well on grass and she is a fine returner on this surface. On the other hand, the Romanian is one of the best movers on tour, and she will fight for every ball and for every point. The downside of Halep's game is that her second serve is vulnerable and very attackable.

There is a lot at stake for both players as if Konta defeats Halep, she ensures that Karolina Pliskova will become the world number one, and the Brit's projection will be a career-high ranking of four. This is the third and final match scheduled on Centre Court, and the winner of this match will face a Grand Slam champion in the semifinals. It will either be five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams or French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko that will be waiting.

Prediction: Konta in three sets