Britain’s Jo Konta staggered away from a head-on collision with twice champion Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon on Monday for a three-set victory which put her in the quarter-finals, and instantly installed her among the favourites for the title.
The 4-6 6-2 6-4 win over the Czech had been a brutal affair, and in the end only Konta had been able to produce sufficient subtlety with which to temper the low-trajectory rockets which had been a feature for both players throughout the match.
For the purists, rallies were few and far between. But for the thrill-seekers, winners exploded repeatedly like a succession of fireworks in a night sky.
Indeed, the used tennis balls from this match, sold as souvenirs to the public, should come with a hefty discount – if there is anything left of them.
Like a Ford Escort stuck in high gear, sixth-seeded Kvitova had no change of pace, little nuance or subtlety, just a roaring engine battering the ball as hard as she could muster.
Even the sport’s ubiquitous topspin was only an occasional visitor as the Czech opened her grip and slammed each ball flat and hard – for a clean winner or a shot flying out the back.
For her part, 19th seed Konta — herself no stranger to the more brutal forms of baseline play — looked to fight firepower with firepower right from the off.
It was almost a case of who or what would crack first, a player’s nerve or a racket’s frame as shot after shot was slammed away for a winner and the eerie sonics echoed around Centre Court.
Next up Konta will face another Czech – the unseeded Barbora Strycova – with a potential semi-final against Serena Williams perhaps on the horizon.
Elsewhere in the women’s draw on Monday, unseeded Karolina Muchova outlasted third seed and fellow Czech Karolina Pliskova to reach the last eight in the longest women’s match at the championships so far this year.
Muchova won 4-6 7-5 13-11 in three hours 17 minutes, claiming victory with a netcord as former world number one Pliskova’s wait for a first Grand Slam title continued.
In her first Grand Slam quarter-final world number 68 Muchova will face eighth-seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina after she eased past Croatia’s Petra Martic.