By Britwatch Tennis
- Johanna Konta def. Zhang Shuai 6-4 6-1
- Faces Angelique Kerber in their first meeting, for a place in the final
- Andy Murray def. David Ferrer 6-3 6-7(5) 6-2 6-3
- Faces Milos Raonic in the semi-final.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Johanna Konta’s dream run continues as her main draw debut leads her to her first Grand Slam semi-final.
In fact more than that, it will be her first tour level semi-final, and what a place to do it. Always bright and breezy as Konta walks into press, acknowledging everyone, she has gained in confidence not only on the court but also in how she handles the ever-growing hysteria amongst the Rule Britannia crowd.
While the journey of ambition for Konta started when she was eight years old, we began to see this shift when she was given the gift of four wildcards in the grass, the second of which saw her beat then world No. 4 Ekaterina Makarova and then Garbiñe Muguruza (WR 14) on grass. Before we get too carried away with the ‘oh it’s grass’ – Muguruza would go on to charm the socks off everyone on her way to the Wimbledon final.
Then she refused to show any glee at moving into the quarter-final of (literally) her home event, and now is happy laughing and joking with the press shows how far she has come, but tomorrow sees a different challenge.
Angelique Kerber faced her own demons in finally getting past two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in seven attempts and is in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the third time (having reached the US Open semi-final stage in 2011, and at Wimbledon in 2012).
She has managed to inject the aggressiveness her game needed while staying true to her roots of running down each and every ball, and finally it came good against the Belarusian who had kept her at bay all this time – but with the prospect of making a Slam final for the first time, who will cave in to nerves first?
Kerber has always had an air of mental fragility – she fell apart quite spectacularly at the WTA Finals in Singapore, knowing that she had to win just one set, and afterwards was furious that she had been told this. So just how will she deal with the expectation of being a favourite to win a place in her first Grand Slam?
Meanwhile for Konta, she handled being the favourite to win here, and views the whole issue of favourite v underdog as something outside the lines and the net.
She said: “I think that’s very much a circumstantial thing outside of the match that I’m playing. I don’t really think about that. It’s neither here nor there for me. For me it’s just about going into every match and being very clear on what I want to achieve out there and being very process orientated and sticking to my beliefs and really the not judging myself on the results that come.
“I’m going to go out there really enjoy it and enjoy the battle and hopefully play a good level and give the crowd a good match.”
She was joined by Andy Murray, for whom perhaps the expectation was a smidge higher. On a day when iPhone Apps declared thunder and lightning, only to be heralded by another sunny spell, Murray prepared indoors, played outdoors and then played indoors again as the roof was closed when he was a break up in the third, with split sets.
He said: “When the roof closed, I was obviously up a break in the third and was feeling good. That first game after the delay was a very important. I saved a couple of break points, but then actually played a good game. So it was nice to get through that game. Then I felt like started to play better as the match went on.”
Konta and Murray (minor) are not the only British players in the latter stages – Andy’s brother Jamie Murray with doubles partner Bruno Soares play their semi-final on Thursday, with Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker in the women’s wheelchair doubles, and Gordon Reid in both the men’s wheelchair singles and doubles.
He added: “What’s happened with Jo I think has come as a surprise to everyone. The rise she’s made over the last nine or ten months has been fantastic.
“I mean, it’s pretty good for us to have people competing in almost all of the competitions. Unfortunately Jamie lost in the mixed today, but Gordon Reid had a great win as well today against the No. 1 in the world who they told me has only lost like once here in the last ten years. So, yeah, it’s been a good Australian Open so far. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
Konta will play her semi-final on Thursday and Murray will play on Friday, with Jamie Murray and Soares playing their doubles final starting at 11am (Midnight GMT).
FOLLOW BRITWATCH – SPORTS IN GENERAL, BRITS IN PARTICULAR!