Tuesday 25 June 2019

Britain's Johanna Konta storms into French Open semi-final with comprehensive win over Sloane Stephens

Johanna Konta of Great Britain celebrates victory during her ladies singles quarter-final match against Sloane Stephens of The United States during day ten of the 2019 French Open at Roland Garros. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Johanna Konta of Great Britain celebrates victory during her ladies singles quarter-final match against Sloane Stephens of The United States during day ten of the 2019 French Open at Roland Garros. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Eleanor Crooks in Paris

Johanna Konta swept aside seventh seed Sloane Stephens with an extraordinary display to reach her third grand slam semi-final at the French Open.

It was scarcely believable that this was the same player who had never won a main-draw match at Roland Garros before this year as she raced to a 6-1 6-4 victory in a flurry of winners.

Stephens lost in the final last year to Simona Halep and had been backed to get there again but she was powerless to stop Konta, who hit 25 winners in the match and only dropped one point on serve in the second set.

By reaching the last four, Konta has matched her own best grand slam performances at the Australian Open in 2016 and Wimbledon the following year, as well as the performance of Jo Durie, who was the last British woman to reach the last four here in 1983.

But none of Konta's previous runs has been quite like this, with the 28-year-old simply bulldozing through her opposition on a surface that had been by far her worst prior to this season.

A lot of credit must go to Konta's French coach Dimitri Zavialoff, who she began working with in October and who has imbued her with the self-belief to trust in her game and her decision-making.

As usual, Court Philippe Chatrier began the day sparsely populated, which hardly made for a big-match feel.

Both players looked a little nervous at the outset but Konta held serve after an eight-minute opening game and then quickly stamped her authority on proceedings.

The 26th seed has been treading the line superbly this tournament between aggression and control, and it is a formula for which none of her opponents has been able to find the answer.

Stephens certainly went into the match as the favourite given her performance here last year and her grand slam pedigree as the 2017 US Open champion.

She is also one of the best athletes in the sport but she was made to look slow by Konta's precision ground strokes and especially her serve, which seemed to have a magnet for the lines.

After 32 minutes, the British player wrapped up the first set, and there was no sign of a momentum shift at the start of the second.

A Stephens forehand that narrowly missed the line gave Konta a break in the opening game, and the British player must have taken great encouragement from seeing her opponent not even attempt to recover having been pulled out wide.

Stephens has a reputation for wavering in her levels of commitment to the sport but has been a lot steadier since coming back from nearly a year out with a foot injury in 2017.

She at least ended a run of seven straight games against her by holding for 1-2, but Konta's first-strike tennis was simply taking the match away from her.

To hold for 4-2, the British player produced four big serves followed by four clean winners, one after the other. And she strode to the finish line to secure victory in an hour and 10 minutes.

In the semi-finals, Konta will face either 31st seed Petra Martic or Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova.

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