Tennis: Venus Williams, Johanna Konta to clash in Miami semis

Venus Williams returning to Angelique Kerber in their quarter-final at the Miami Open in Florida. Despite the defeat, the German will keep her top ranking next week.
Venus Williams returning to Angelique Kerber in their quarter-final at the Miami Open in Florida. Despite the defeat, the German will keep her top ranking next week.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

US veteran takes out No. 1 Kerber, while Briton recovers from near exit against Halep

MIAMI • Venus Williams rolled back the years to send world No. 1 Angelique Kerber crashing out of the Miami Open on Wednesday and advance to a semi-final showdown with Britain's Johanna Konta.

The 36-year-old became the oldest player to beat a top-ranked player after downing the German 7-5, 6-3, while Konta fought back to beat Simon Halep 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2.

Both results had the element of surprise about them, with Kerber the top seed and Halep the third and in good form. But Williams and Konta set up what should be a fascinating contest this morning (Singapore time).

With the local crowd that included her popcorn-munching father Richard behind her, Williams, a three-time winner at Miami, broke Kerber four times. She failed to hold her serve twice, but the contest was more one-sided in the second set.

Williams raced to a 4-1 lead before Kerber broke back and started to produce some great shots as she battled in vain to save the match.

"It was an interesting match. I was controlling it. I had more errors than I like and a lower first serve percentage (45 per cent) than I would like," said Williams after her 15th career win against a No. 1 player, but her first since 2014. "I have to play well against the No. 1 in the world. She's on top of her game and she played well, so I had to find a way to play a little better."

Venus Williams returning to Angelique Kerber in their quarter-final at the Miami Open in Florida. Despite the defeat, the German will keep her top ranking next week.
Venus Williams returning to Angelique Kerber in their quarter-final at the Miami Open in Florida. Despite the defeat, the German will keep her top ranking next week. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

The result epitomised their starts to the season. World No. 12 Williams continued her late-career renaissance, having reached the final of this year's Australian Open.

Kerber has yet to win a tournament this year and most recently went out in the round of 16 at the Indian Wells event. But she will remain No. 1 next week despite her loss and is staying positive.

"This wasn't the best start I would have wished for, but it's not a drama because I'm still playing good and winning matches. I'm looking forward to playing again," she said. "It wasn't my best game, but she deserved to win because she played really well tonight."

Konta also carved out a slice of history with her victory, becoming the first British woman to reach the last four at Miami.

Halep got down on herself after losing the second-set tie-break, as indicated by the tense discussion that ensued between the world No. 5 and her Australian coach Darren Cahill.

"This is my character," she grumbled to him after coming within two points of victory. "Two double faults at the end of the tie-break and I miss all the balls."

Konta pounced on the Romanian's evident emotional fragility and made the most of her opponent's 41 unforced errors.

"I'm really happy that I've come through and I am just looking forward to my next round - it's going to be a tough one," she said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2017, with the headline 'Venus, Konta to clash in Miami semis'. Print Edition | Subscribe