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Players of the Week: Muller deserves all the plaudit; Konta also merits praise

Gilles Muller

By eliminating Rafael Nadal in the last 16 of the Wimbledon men’s singles, Gilles Muller merits a big pat on the back.

Not only that though, our vote for the Player of the Week goes to him.

Even though he lost, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 5-7, 7-5, 1-6, to seventh seed Marin Cilic of Croatia in the last 8, Muller deserves the PoTW accolade.

Muller, a 34-year-old netter from Luxembourg, did not succumb to pressure even after Nadal rallied from two sets down to even matters at 2-set all.

Other players of weak resolve should just crumble and hand a player of Nadal’s quality the win.

Muller found a fifth, and a sixth if there is one, gear in the deciding fifth set of the epic, four-hour and 47 minute-encounter.

In the end, 16th seed Muller stood shocked himself, completing a stunning 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13 victory.

And if there’s a co-Player of the Week, it will be Johanna Konta hands down.

The sixth-seeded Konta overcame No. 2 seed Simona Halep of Romania, 6-7 (2-7, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, to become the first British semifinalist in the tournament since Virginia Wade in 1978.

Konta, 26, set up a semifinals clash against No. 10 seed Venus Williams, 37, who whipped No. 13 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, 6-3, 7-5. The 20-year-old Ostapenko is the reigning French Open champion.

After No. Andy Murray was beaten by 24th-seeded American Sam Querrey, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals, Konta will now be the sole hope of Great Britain in bringing Wimbledon glory to the nation.

“That was tough,’’ said Muller, who has entered his first Grand Slam quarter-final since the 2008 US Open. “In the last two match points I just said give it 100%.’’

Even world No. 2 Nadal could not put his trademark competitiveness to full use in upending Muller in a strength-sapping final set which took two and a quarter hours or more than half an hour longer than Roger Federer’s win over Bulgarian 13th seed Grigor Dimitrov.

Muller as well as Nadal received a standing ovation and rapturous applause after the longest – and perhaps finest – match of this year’s tournament.

Veteran Muller, a balding, 6-foot-4 left-hander blessed with a powerful serve and superb net skills, is hot on a renaissance in the latter stage of his career, rediscovering his best form of a 16-year professional career.

He had never bagged an ATP Tour title until he prevailed over Britain’s Dan Evans in the Sydney final earlier this year.

He then went on to earn his first grass-court success at s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands last month.

Nadal, gracious in defeat, had nothing but praises for Muller after the loss.

“Well done to him. He played great, especially in the fifth set, but I fought to the last ball,’’ said the Spaniard.

Yeah, Rafa, you really fought to the last ball, but Gilles had the last laugh.

And Konta? All of Britain will be watching when she attempts to reach the final at the expense of Williams.