Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
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As the rain beat down on the Centre Court roof, still drowned out by the din within, the deal was done; the love affair between Johanna Konta and the British public at Wimbledon was well and truly declared to the world.
Virginia Wade, who’d been gazing in admiration from the Royal Box watching Konta salvage a thunderous victory from the brink of defeat against Simona Halep through seeming force of will, could have been speaking for a nation as she mused: “I haven’t seen a player with that sort of dedication and determination for a long time.”
Too true. The more we see of her, the easier Konta is to appreciate and embrace. We’re beginning to feel we can see her real personality through the character of her game - steadfast, organised and deliberate, yet somehow still imbued with a fierce ambition and courageous adventure. No woman has hit more winners than her 166 this year.
Yet Wade, who wants to see Konta emulate her as the first British woman to win the title since 1977, has long admired those very same qualities of dedication and determination in Venus Williams, a monumental figure in the game who can today spoil a fantastic story and script an even more outrageous one.
For while Konta is saddled with the burden of providing British sport’s balm after Andy Murray’s painful-to-behold exit on Wednesday, the idea of Venus moving just one match away from becoming the oldest holder of the Venus Rosewater Dish for 109 years seems almost unthinkable.
But then Williams has spent a pioneering career stretching the boundaries of what seemed possible in her sport. A trailblazer, a role model, an entrepreneur and a fighter for equal rights all while winning countless titles and Olympic medals, she even outfought a serious debilitating illness, Sjogren’s syndrome, to ensure a one-time 14-year-old phenomenon is still, rather miraculously, now a 37-year-old phenomenon.
You can understand, then, why Konta says she feels “humbled to share a court with Venus.” Privileged but not overawed, mind. They have met five times before and Eastbourne leads Palm Beach Gardens 3-2.
The back stories of the one-time teenage prodigy and the late bloomer could hardly be more different but now their games come complementarily packaged. “We play a very similar style: aggressive, serve well, return well, very solid off the ground,” notes Williams.
They’re both serving well and have sent down more aces - 28 for Konta, 27 for Williams - than anyone. If the American has an advantage, perhaps it’s that she’s fresher, having spent over three hours less on court than the Briton, who’s been taken to the well in three three-set contests. It’s a mighty tough call, though.
The plot line is compelling in the first semi-final on Centre too. Magdalena Rybarikova is happy to tell anyone who’ll listen that Garbiñe Muguruza, last year’s French Open champion and the 2015 Wimbledon finalist, is the overwhelming favourite but then adds with the smile that’s hardly left her lips all summer: “Anything can happen. Miracles do happen…”
They already have, she thinks. Slovakia’s answer to Cinderella still cannot comprehend how she has finally reached a Grand Slam semi-final at 28 at the 36th time of asking and less than six months since she felt her career had hit a dead end because of injuries to her wrist and knee.
She was world No.453 in March yet now, after feeling her way back at second-tier tournaments, she is No.87 and one match away from becoming the lowest-ranked Grand Slam finalist since world No.111 Chris O’Neil won the 1978 Australian Open.
Muguruza is making a comeback of sorts, too. It’s the return of that champion’s strut and smile, which even had old Zorro himself, Antonio Banderas, applauding her here back in 2015 and which Roland Garros fell for too last year when she defeated Serena Williams in Paris for her first major.
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The loss of that title last month marked the low point of a year-long decline as she plummeted out of the top 10 but it also kick-started a revival. “I liked the way I handled it,” she reflects. “I wasn't at all, like, sad or with the spirit down. I said ‘Look, grass starts’.”
With the 1994 champion Conchita Martinez in her coaching corner here, she’s looked hugely impressive, not least when beating Angelique Kerber in what was probably the highest quality ladies' singles match of The Championships.
Yet Rybarikova will be warmed by knowledge of how her grass court nous helped her outplay Muguruza in their only encounter on the Edgbaston grass two years ago. And, as she says, miracles do happen…
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