Top 10 Grand Slam Matches of 2017: #5 - Johanna Konta and Simona Halep play out quarterfinal thriller at Wimbledon

Starting this week, VAVEL USA’s Don Han will be counting down the top 10 best WTA Grand Slam matches of 2017. Number 5: Johanna Konta's high-quality win over second seed Simona Halep at the Wimbledon Championships, triumphing in front of a partisan crowd under the roof on Wimbledon's Centre Court.

Top 10 Grand Slam Matches of 2017: #5 - Johanna Konta and Simona Halep play out quarterfinal thriller at Wimbledon
Johanna Konta celebrates winning a point during a tough win over Simona Halep in the Wimbledon quarterfinals | Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe
Johanna Konta
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Simona Halep

In what was the most-viewed women’s singles match of the 2017 Wimbledon Championships, Johanna Konta and Simona Halep represented women’s tennis well as they put up a thriller for a packed Centre Court, with the home favorite triumphing after a marathon two-hours, 41-minutes of play. Watched live by 7.4 million people on just BBC alone, this encounter was more popular than the Gentlemen's Singles final or any other ladies’ match in the tournament.

Konta claimed the 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 win, having just broken serve twice during the affair despite being two points away from defeat, showing how high-quality the match was. Halep missed out on a golden opportunity to grab the number one ranking, having been just two points away from the win in the second set.

Johanna Konta applauds the supportive home crowd after her magnificent win | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe
Johanna Konta applauds the supportive home crowd after her magnificent win | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe

Halep steals the first set despite losing early lead

It was the perfect start for Halep — who was firing on all cylinders as she surprisingly dictated play against the nervy Konta who definitely felt the pressure playing in front of a home crowd. Halep, who would be the new world number one had she taken the win, took the early break before consolidating in the toughest way possible, fending off a break point in the process.

Konta managed to get onto the scoreboard with a solid hold and was able to find some breakthroughs on the return, but failed to win the crucial points as she sent two returns straight into the net on both her break points early on. Opening up a 4-1 lead, Halep looked to be strolling through the match but the Brit seemed to have found her groove mid-match, firing winners from everywhere on the court to claim 12 of the next 14 points and level the set at 4-4.

Johanna Konta in action during her Wimbledon quarterfinal against Simona Halep | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe
Johanna Konta in action during her Wimbledon quarterfinal against Simona Halep | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe

With both players serving impressively and Konta just missing four first serves throughout the set, the match proceeded into a tiebreak to decide its winner. There, Konta suffered a slight misfocus and lost the rhythm, blasting countless unforced errors to gift the first set to Halep after 52 minutes of play.

Konta fights back from the brink

Konta was simply rock solid on her serves while Halep faced some troubles, conceding two break points in the opening service game of the second set. The Brit performed well to earn her chances but failed to find the rhythm on the crucial points, allowing Halep to narrowly grab the confidence-boosting hold. The second set, despite without any twists and turns, was extremely high-quality with both players dominating their service games, Konta winning 70 and 71 percent of her first and second serves respectively, as compared to 64 and an impressive 79 percent for the Romanian.

Simona Halep celebrates winning the first set over Johanna Konta, bringing her a set closer to being the world number one | Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe
Simona Halep celebrates winning the first set over Johanna Konta, bringing her a set closer to being the world number one | Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe

Halep saved another couple of break points in the eighth game, with Konta missing the returns on both points as she was too overly-passive and failed to take the initiative. This meant that we were headed towards a second consecutive tiebreak. Halep, having won the first set, opened up an early 3-1 lead having earned the mini-break, but soon made a couple of poor errors as Konta recovered from a 4-5 deficit with the Romanian serving, winning three straight points to steal the second set.

Home crowd roars as Konta takes the win

Merciless serving from Halep saw her start the deciding set on a positive note, before earning her first break point since her first return game of the match. However, Konta managed to hold her nerves in front of a packed crowd, coming up with eight impressive winners to prevail in the marathon 10-minute game. After a routine exchange of service holds, it was the Brit who finally made the first breakthrough as Halep started to lose the plot and produced multiple forehand errors to gift Konta the first break of serve after over two hours.

Simona Halep squats to hit a forehand during her quarterfinal match against Johanna Konta, putting in a great performance despite falling short | Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe
Simona Halep squats to hit a forehand during her quarterfinal match against Johanna Konta, putting in a great performance despite falling short | Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe

The break acted as a confidence-booster for Konta, who was hardly missing any shots as Halep failed to find any loopholes on the return. The Romanian stopped the rout of losing three consecutive games in some impressive fashion — stamping her authority across Centre Court with several powerful serves and aggressive hitting. However, Konta was just too flawless on her serving, and she soon found herself serving for the match at 5-4 up. On a controversial match point, Halep was affected by a scream from a woman in the crowd, and sent her following forehand into the net, ending the match in a rather awkward and unfortunate way.

Stats Corner: Impressive match played by both

It was an extremely tight affair with only three breaks of serve throughout the 158-minute encounter. Konta, who was so dominant on her serve, won 68 percent of her first serves while losing just a mere 12 points behind her second deliveries. In what could be Halep’s best-ever serving performance on grass, the Romanian claimed an impressive 72 percent of first-service points before winning 54 percent of points on her second serves.

Both players meet at the net for a handshake after the encounter | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe
Both players meet at the net for a handshake after the encounter | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe

Both players were 75 percent for points at the net, with Konta’s tactics well-planned as she dominated play with her aggressive tennis, winning 24 points at the net. Ending the match with an incredible 48 winners to 36 unforced errors, Konta never seemed like letting loose at any point during the match. However, Halep put up an excellent match as well. The Romanian had a whopping 26 winners with just nine errors, and a notable fact is that she did not hit any unforced errors off her backhand.

Reaction from the players: Konta delighted with hard-fought victory

“I think was a great tennis. Both of us played a good level. I was very close, again. In the tiebreak maybe I could serve better and stronger a little bit. Then in the third set, the serve game that I lost was a little bit tough to still believe that I can break her because she was serving pretty well,” Halep mentioned in her press conference. The Romanian put in a good performance but just fell short to the inspired Brit who delighted the home crowd with the win. Nonetheless, Halep quickly affirmed that she would only take the positives from this match, considering that she thought this was one of her best performances on grass courts in her career.

Simona Halep was looking dejected after the match, and she would rue her missed chances considering she was two points away from the win | Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe
Simona Halep was looking dejected after the match, and she would rue her missed chances considering she was two points away from the win | Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe

Konta impressively took the win in front of a partisan home crowd while putting up a high-quality performance, and she was certainly delighted with the fact that she was able to triumph against a world-class opponent. “I guess to be in the semifinals of my home slam, and to do that in front of a full Centre Court, I mean, it's pretty, pretty special. I think the level of tennis that both of us played today, it was just a tremendous match,” Konta stated.

Aftermath: Konta creates history while Halep suffers another heartbreak

With Halep’s loss, this meant that Karolina Pliskova took over the top spot in the rankings after the tournament concluded with Halep missing out on her third chance to claim the number one ranking. Nonetheless, this was the Romanian’s second consecutive quarterfinal appearance at Wimbledon. Halep continued to achieve more success through the remainder of the year and finally became the world number one after the China Open, where she reached the final.

Johanna Konta was in disbelief after claiming the improbable win | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe
Johanna Konta was in disbelief after claiming the improbable win | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe

With this win, Konta became the first Brit to reach the semifinals at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club since Virginia Wade did so in 1978, which was 39 years ago. It also meant that the Brit cracked the top-five in the rankings for the first time, making it a new milestone in her career. In her second Major semifinal, Konta fell to Venus Williams in a one-sided 4-6, 2-6 match. The Brit ended the year ranked ninth despite being on a five-match losing streak.