After Wimbledon two-seed Simona Halep and six-seed Johanna Konta split the first two sets of their quarterfinal match in tiebreaks, the deciding set was a tense affair, with fans groaning and gasping after every point. At 5-4, 40-15, Konta was serving for the match. Halep pinned the Brit to the baseline with a deep backhand and Konta shoveled back a return that landed well short. Halep approached, poised to flick a forehand crosscourt to save the first of two match points. Then, right as Halep drew her racket back, a fan in the British pro-Konta crowd let out an alarming screech. Halep visibly hesitated, then dumped the ball into the net. Both players looked uncertain—Konta didn’t even celebrate at first—but the chair umpire just shook his head. Game, set, match.
In her post-match interview, Konta—confused at best and a guilt-ridden liar at worst—said the scream was a distraction for her.
“I think it was a woman on my end screamed,” Konta said. “It was actually as I was hitting my ball so I think it more affected me than necessarily my opponent.”
That’s not true, of course; the noisy fan easily might have cost Halep the point and the match. Tennis players are accustomed to playing in front of quiet crowds and chair umpires routinely shush tittering fans before points begin. At most stadiums, ushers even block fans from walking to their seat until breaks in play. As the most mentally grueling of all sports—no teammates to share the blame, fast-paced, power and fine-motor movements and decisions all spun into split seconds, plus plenty of time to psych yourself out between points—tennis requires intense concentration and has traditionally thrived in the near silence. And while there’s an argument to make that tennis should welcome crowd noise during the course of play like other sports, screaming suddenly and loudly in an otherwise silent stadium (as opposed to the white noise of a general crowd buzz), during the most important point of a match, is antithetical to quality tennis. Today, it cast a pall over Konta’s otherwise well-deserved win and cheapened a quality match.
This series of three points from Halep—a 16-shot baseline rally, an inside-out forehand winner, and a heavy topspin forehand up the line that Konta couldn’t handle—won Halep the first set breaker.
The second set was even closer. With the Romanian world No. 2 serving at 5-4 in the tiebreak, just two points away from her second consecutive Grand Slam semifinal and the No. 1 ranking, Konta reeled off a string of three points to even the match.
In the third set, Halep became more tentative, hitting to the safe middle of the court, while Konta continued to hit for the lines and approach the net. According to SlamTracker, Konta finished with 48 winners compared to Halep’s 26. She also won 24 of 32 points at the net to Halep’s nine of 12. When all was said and done, Halep won 112 total points. Konta had 114.
Plus one helpful shriek.