It was Henman Hill, then Murray Mound, but Johanna Konta could not claim her “Kop”, even on the day Britain’s No 1 female player became the first in 33 years to reach a Wimbledon quarter-final.
Fans packed on to the famous grassed terrace watching Court 1 action with the No 6 seed at a crucial point in her nail-biting three-setter against France’s Caroline Garcia suddenly saw the big screen switch to centre court, where Britain’s other No 1, Andy Murray, was warming up to face Frenchman Benoît Paire.
Wimbledon organisers chose to showcase the “Big Four” men – Murray, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – over women’s top players.
Konta’s stunning 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 victory was welcomed by veteran Jo Durie, the last British woman to reach the quarter finals, who tweeted her a welcome to “the last eight club”. Afterwards, Konta said her victory was “another step forward to being involved in the event for the full two weeks” and she was “very excited to be coming back and playing again”.
She was unaware, she confessed, that she had been dropped from the hill. “I didn’t know. I was not on Henman Hill, I was on Court 1 playing. I think that is a broadcasting decision,” she said with great diplomacy.
The 26-year-old’s victory and that of Murray, who beat Paire in straight sets – 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 – is the first time a British man and a British woman have reached the final eight since Virginia Wade and Roger Taylor, 44 years ago in 1973. Fittingly, Taylor was in the royal box to witness it.
Bur earlier there had been criticism of the All England Club’s scheduling on a day when all 32 remaining players in the singles tournaments were on court, with the club defending its decision to place just two women’s matches on its biggest courts, those of Australian-born Konta on Court 1 and Venus Williams on Centre Court, compared with all of the top four men.
Three-times Wimbledon champion, Chris Evert, said: “We have equal prize money so why do we not have equal representation on Centre Court and Court 1? Instead of four men’s matches and two women’s matches, I would like to see, and I think all women would like to see, three men’s matches and three women’s matches to go along with the equal prize money,” she told BBC Radio 5 Live.
Germany’s Angelique Kerber, the No 1 seed, was relegated to Court 2, to her surprise, for her match against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, which Kerber lost in three sets. The French Open champion, Jeļena Ostapenko, from Latvia, found herself on Court 12. “I think I deserve to play on a better court than Court 12, I guess,” she said after beating Elina Svitolina from Ukraine.
Asked about the scheduling, Murray said one solution might be to start play earlier to fit two men’s and two women’s matches on the top two courts.
“Need to maybe find a way of allowing for an equal split of the men’s and women’s matches across the tournament rather than just looking at one day. If there’s better matches on the women’s side than the men’s side, you can flip it. If there’s better matches on the men’s side, then that has to go first, as well,” he said.
“So maybe starting the matches a little bit sooner, a little bit earlier in the day, and splitting them between the men and women. It’s not the hardest thing to do,” he added.
But Richard Lewis, the All England Club’s chief executive, said the matches were scheduled to allow people time to travel to the grounds, with many people coming long distances to attend. He said Wimbledon had stand-alone quarter and semi-finals for women, “which no other tournament has”.
“Then obviously you’ve got fantastic days in every championships where the ladies are centre stage. And rightly so. And we celebrate that, and we’re very proud of it”.
Lewis said scheduling was tough on such a busy day and the club was “spoiled for choice” with the “all-time great male players” all playing.
He said of the decision to place five-time Wimbledon champion and No 10 seed Williams, 37, who overcame Ana Konjuh, 19, on Centre Court: “It was the unanimous view that Venus deserved to be on centre, in respect of what she has done in her career.”
It was not about “male/female,” he said. “It’s about which matches you think in the end are the ones the public and broadcasters most of all would like to see.”
On “Konta Kop”, there was frustration for some fans when the big screen switched to Murray, especially when the roar from nearby Court 1 later plainly signified a Konta victory.
Rob Sampson, from Essex, standing with friend Luke Gelder, from London, positioned themselves so they could see both the screen showing Murray’s game and the scoreboard showing Konta’s score.
“I think it is a bit disappointing. We expect that Murray is going to win his match. The Konta match is the first successful [British] woman in a long time. I’d like to have seen that”, said Rob.
Sharon Edwards and Jo Rogers, from Worcester, said they were “gutted”. Having the luxury of Centre Court tickets, they had come out to cheer Konta on after seeing Venus Williams win, only to find the main screen had switched to show Murray’s game. “’It would have been great to see Konta,” said Rogers. “Yeah, it’s pretty deflating. We’ll have our picnic then go back to Centre Court,” said Edwards.
Daniel Buss, from London, said: “I would have liked to seen the [Konta] match through to the end.”
Dawn Kavanagh, from London, said: “It would have been better to have two screens. But I understand why. Because Murray is more in the public eye. It was a little bit disappointing.”
Caroline Garcia’s father accused of coaching from players’ box
Crossing fingers under his chin, tugging at his thumb, stroking his chest and patting his forearm, Caroline Garcia’s father-cum-coach couldn’t seem to sit still in the players’ box during her match against Konta.
As television cameras caught his fidgets, Konta fans accused him of blatant coaching by allegedly making banned hand gestures during the British player’s three-set victory.
“Brilliant. Defeated two opponents other side of the net. Garcia and her coach,” one fan tweeted. Another tweeted asking why no one was stopping it.
One seasoned sports journalist remarked that Louis-Paul Garcia had better not attend any auctions any time soon.
Asked about the fidgeting as he came off Court 1, Garcia’s father denied he was making hand gestures – which if spotted by the umpire can invoke fines of up to $20,000 (£15,500) per incident. “I made no signal. Just support. Nothing special,” he said.
Garcia, 23, from Saint-Germain-en-Laye in France, said at a post-match press conference that she had not seen her father making any gestures. Did people think she was looking at her father for 20 seconds trying to “understand what he is telling me?” she retorted.
When various gestures were demonstrated to her, by an obliging member of the press, Garcia replied: “OK. So, I didn’t see any of this, so I’m sorry, When I watch at my dad, I just want to catch his eye, nothing more. You probably saw way better than me because the TV is focused on him, but when I watch my dad, I just turn my head to him, nothing more.”
She added: “Sometimes maybe he tried, but I don’t know. I don’t think so. But I know it’s difficult to be outside of the court for every single coach. He try to give me the most energy he can, but coaching is not something over – I mean, is this the only thing you’re going to remember from the match?” she said.
She added: “I don’t know. I can’t tell you. I didn’t see any symbol, sign like this, like you said, so I can’t tell you.”
Konta seemed oblivious to the gestures. “I didn’t notice,” she said after the match. She was being “very much focused on myself” and it was the “umpire’s duty” to be aware, she added.