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12th-Jul-2017

Venus rising as Konta eyes Halep revenge

By AFP, London


Venus Williams is ready to roll back the years as the American star eyes a place in the Wimbledon semi-finals, while British contender Johanna Konta faces a grudge match against Simona Halep on Tuesday.
It is eight years since Williams last reached the Wimbledon final, but the 37-year-old showed she is still a formidable force on grass by thrashing Ana Konjuh in the fourth round.
Williams' quarter-final opponent -- Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko -- was just 11 when Venus won the last of her five Wimbledon titles in 2008.
The 20-year-old idolised Venus's sister Serena Williams, the reigning champion who is absent while she prepares to have her first child, and has modelled her go-for-broke game after the American legend.
Having stunned the tennis world by becoming the first unseeded player to win the French Open, Ostapenko is brim full of confidence. Williams, this year's Australian Open runner-up, is the oldest Wimbledon quarter-finalist for 23 years and she knows she'll have to summon the kind of dominant display that made her so deadly a decade ago.
"She had an amazing moment in Paris. She's riding on that momentum," Williams said of Ostapenko.
"I'm playing pretty solid. I'd like to win every round in straight sets. If not, all that matters is you win.
"Winning never gets old at any stage in your career, ever."
Serena, in 2002 and 2015, is the last player to win the French Open and Wimbledon back to back, with Ostapenko not yet looking that far ahead.
"The first couple of matches here were tough. I wasn't playing my best. But I still won. I was
fighting. That's the key for getting your confidence and playing better with every match," she said.
British star Konta and Romanian world number two Halep clash in what promises to be a heated affair  with so much at stake for both players.
Halep can replace Angelique Kerber on top of the world rankings with a win, while Konta is looking to
move a step closer to becoming the first woman to win Wimbledon since Virginia Wade in 1977.
As if that wasn't enough to fuel emotions on Centre Court, the pair were involved in a spiteful Fed Cup clash between their countries in April.
Konta was reduced to tears by what she felt were threats and intimidation from the Romanian fans in Constanta during her match against Sorana Cirstea.
- Threatened -
Romania coach Ilie Nastase was sent from the court after calling Konta and his British counterpart Anne Keothavong "bitches" and was later banned from the stadium following a foul-mouthed rant at a British journalist.
Halep didn't exactly soothe Konta's wounds ahead of their last eight clash, saying: "In my opinion, the public was very fair".
Konta couldn't hide her frustration went told of Halep's unsympathetic attitude.
"They were not in my shoes. They were not being verbally threatened. I think it's very difficult for them to understand my position," she said.
Beaten in the 2015 final by Serena, Spain's Garbine Muguruza admits she and many of her title rivals know they have a golden opportunity to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish while the 23-time major winner is away.
Muguruza, who faces Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova, said: "I think so, because she's always in the final.
"Of course, it's a big change. More players have the chance to get to the final."