Johanna Konta missed out on becoming the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam final since 1977 by losing to Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova in the French Open semi-finals.
The 26th seed’s extraordinary run here ended with a 7-5 7-6 (7-2) defeat by the unseeded 19-year-old in windy conditions in front of a sparse crowd.
Konta, 28, was unable to convert three first-set points – and paid the price.
Vondrousova plays Australian Ashleigh Barty in Saturday’s final.
The Czech, who has not dropped a set, is the first teenage finalist at Roland Garros since Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic in 2007.
Konta was bidding to become the first British woman to win a Grand Slam singles title since Virginia Wade triumphed at Wimbledon 42 years ago and the first singles player from the nation – man or woman – to win at Roland Garros since Sue Barker in 1976.
“It is always tough to lose a match, any match, and always tough to lose matches where you have opportunities and chances,” said Konta, who had never won a main-draw match at the Paris venue before this tournament.
But I feel very comfortable and assured that I did the best I could out there.
“It’s hard to lose any match like this but my opponent played well and I’m proud of how I played.”
However, Konta said she was “surprised” at the match being moved out to Court Simonne-Mathieu – Roland Garros’ third show court – with organisers reshuffling the schedule because of bad weather.
The new 5,000-seater stadium was barely a third full for the semi-final.
- How Konta’s defeat unfolded and follow Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal in men’s semi-finals
- Barty beats Anisimova to reach final
Tension gets better of Konta
Konta was playing in her third Grand Slam semi-final on a third different surface – having reached the last four at the 2016 Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2017.
The women’s draw has been blown wide open over the past fortnight, and the Briton was the only semi-finalist in Paris to have reached this stage of a Slam previously.
Vondrousova is competing in the main draw of a Grand Slam for the ninth time, while her furthest previous run at a major was reaching the fourth round at last year’s US Open.
However, Konta’s greater experience did not tell as tension got the better of the former world number four at crucial moments.
She led 5-3 in both sets before allowing Vondrousova to break back and seize the initiative.
Konta’s shot selection on her first two chances to seal the opening set proved significant, spooning a wild drive-volley long and planting a sliced backhand into the net.
“The way the point was going I’d take that as a drive volley nine out of 10 times and nine out of 10 times I’d make that,” she said.
“And the point after I clipped the net so there wasn’t too much wrong there.”
Although she did manage to put those shots behind her and earn a third chance, that opportunity disappeared as well when Vondrousova put away a forehand winner on her way to a crucial hold.
Konta’s confidence sapped as she failed to serve out the opener from 5-4 – and then there was a sense of deja vu when she also failed to serve out from the same position in the second.
A double fault handed over the break – and the momentum – as Vondrousova ran away with the tie-break to seal victory in one hour and 45 minutes.
“I didn’t regret anything I did there,” Konta said. “I feel comfortable with how I played and what I tried to do. I don’t have any regrets.
“Overall I played a very tough opponent, who was better than me on the day.”
Empty seats and a smaller court
Rows of empty seats are not what you would expect to see at a Grand Slam semi-final, yet that was the scene as Konta and Vondrousova battled for a place in Saturday’s final.
Both women’s semi-finals were due to be played on the 15,000-seater Philippe Chatrier on Thursday, but rain leading to play being cancelled on Wednesday had a knock-on effect and organisers moved them to smaller show courts.
While Barty and Anisimova played on Suzanne Lenglen, which can house 10,000 fans, Konta and Vondrousova were moved to Roland Garros’ picturesque third show court, which opened this year.
Despite being open to those with outside court tickets, the stadium was barely half full.
The entire top tier was virtually empty, with large patches of light-coloured wooden seats visible on the bottom deck.
It was not a good look for Roland Garros’ organisers, who had faced plenty of criticism for moving the women’s semi-finals out to the smaller show courts.
WTA boss Steve Simon called the decision “inappropriate and unfair”,while former world number one Amelie Mauresmo said it was a “disgrace”.
Konta appeared to agree with their criticism without explicitly supporting it, adding the decision to move the women’s semi-finals “speaks for itself”.
“What is tiring and what is really unfortunate in this, more than anything, is that female athletes have to sit in different positions and have to justify their scheduling or their involvement in an event or their salary or their opportunities,” she said.
“I think to give time to that is even more of a sad situation than what we found ourselves in today in terms of the scheduling.”
BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller
This was, without doubt, a missed opportunity for Johanna Konta.
Leading both sets 5-3, and playing with purpose, Konta lost her way. Her thought process became clouded, and her shot selection went awry.
Konta has not yet been been able to reproduce her best form in a Grand Slam semi-final. Defeats by Angelique Kerber in Melbourne, and Venus Williams at Wimbledon, were less of a surprise. But this time Konta had the experience, and the lead.
Let’s hope there will be further opportunities to come, and let’s not forget how far Konta has come in six weeks.
At the start of the clay-court season she was in danger of slipping out of the world’s top 50. She is now a top-20 player once again, and has put together a remarkable clay-court season of 15 wins – a statistic which back in April seemed utterly implausible.