Monday 23 April 2018

Konta springs major shock to join Murray in quarter-finals

Ohanna Konta has reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.
Photo: Michael Dodge / Getty Images
Ohanna Konta has reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. Photo: Michael Dodge / Getty Images

Paul Newman

Ohanna Konta does not know Jo Durie, Sue Barker or Virginia Wade, but the 24-year-old Briton says that she will "definitely make a concerted effort to find out more about them.

Konta and her predecessors do, after all, form an elite group: they are the only British women in the Open era to have reached the Australian Open quarter-finals.

Konta joined that high-achieving club with one of the finest displays in her remarkable run over the past eight months.

The experienced Ekaterina Makarova has a fine record at Melbourne Park, having reached the semi-final last year and the quarter-finals on two previous occasions, but the 27-year-old Russian finally succumbed to Konta's sustained excellence as the Briton won 4-6, 6-4, 8-6.

"I think I would have cried at the end, but I'd sweated so much I didn't have anything left in my body," Konta said. "There was a little bit in the corner of my eyes and I thought: 'Jeez, there's tears coming here.' But there weren't. There was absolutely nothing left in there.

"When the final shot hit the net and I put my hands up to my face, it was more relief than anything else. There had been so much tension and emotion out there for so long, the end was just such a release."

Konta is the first British woman to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam tournament since Durie made the last eight at Wimbledon in 1984. Durie was also the last Briton to make the last eight here, in 1983.

The success of Konta and Andy Murray - who beat Bernard Tomic 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 victory to earn himself a quarter-final against David Ferrer - also means that Britain will have a man and a woman in the last eight of a Grand Slam tournament in singles for the first time for 39 years.

It might be tempting fate to suggest as much, but Konta has a wonderful chance to progress even further after China's Zhang Shuai secured a quarter-final meeting with the world No 47 by beating an injured Madison Keys 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Until last week, 27-year-old Zhang had never won a match in 14 appearances at Grand Slam tournaments. The world No 133 is the first women's qualifier to reach the quarter-finals here since 1990.

Konta or Zhang, whose head-to-head record stands at one win apiece, will face Victoria Azarenka or Angelique Kerber in the semi-finals. "I think Zhang is actually on a bit more of an incredible journey than myself," Konta said. "She's doing unbelievably well."

Even if Konta loses to Zhang, the Briton is expected to climb to No 32 in next week's updated world rankings list, which would be high enough to ensure she would be seeded at Grand Slam tournaments. It is an extraordinary rise, considering that she was ranked No 147 in the world going into last summer's grass-court season.

However, Konta insisted: "This journey started when I was about eight years old, so we're coming up to 18 years now. I've always said I do not believe in a kind of 'light switch' moment. Everything happens for a reason."

The victory over Makarova was a demonstration of physical and mental strength. Konta was still going strong at the end of three hours and four minutes, which made this the second-longest women's match at this tournament.

Meanwhile, French Open champion Stan Wawrinka has revealed how a 10-day illness contributed to his surprise defeat to Milos Raonic.

Wawrinka came from two sets down but could not win the decider as Raonic won 6-4 6-3 5-7 4-6 6-3 to book his place in the quarter-finals, where he will meet Frenchman Gael Monfils who beat Russian Andrey Kuznetsov in four sets.

© Independent News Service.

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