June 6, 2019
Simona Halep has been sensationally knocked out of Roland Garros, leaving many to believe that Johanna Konta can lift her first Grand Slam title.
Champion Halep was beaten by 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova, who barely looked old enough to do the job.
Her seemingly innocent features concealed a steely strength, though. You don’t beat Halep by being faint-hearted.
The unknown American won seven games in a row before she tightened slightly with the finishing line in sight.
But Halep was still unable to dig in and she double-faulted in her last service game.
That final, brutal backhand pass from Anisimova not only sealed a stunning 6-2, 6-4 victory.
It was also typical of her timing and ferocity against her more famous opponent.
Seeing that Simona could not return her last pass, Anisimova cupped her face in her hands, scarcely believing what she had achieved.
‘This is honestly more than I could ever have asked for,’ said the unseeded starlet. ‘That was one of the best matches I have ever played.’
Now she plays Ashleigh Barty, who was our outside bet here at WDH for the last Grand Slam, the Australian Open.
Bubbly Barty beat Madison Keys 6-3, 7-5 to march on to the semi-finals.
But in the absence of Halep, Konta must now believe she can win Roland Garros if she can defeat Marketa Vondrousova on Friday morning.
Of course, Konta must ensure that she doesn’t underestimate the highly-talented women still left in the draw.
And above all, to win the French Open she must use her superior experience to impose her own forceful game on her opposition.
She must subdue them before they can tap into the confidence behind their own winning streaks.
As for Simona, she is already looking forward to Wimbledon. ‘I’m a little disappointed but not very disappointed,’ she said. ‘I’m looking forward to a few days off and then the grass season. Maybe I can have a good one.’
British tennis fans can’t wait for Konta’s own grass-court season, and Wimbledon in particular.
But over in Paris, she is now just two steps from glory.
Could she come to Wimbledon already a Grand Slam champion? We’ll soon find out.
By Mark Ryan