By Ros Satar
- Johanna Konta v Zhang Shuai
- Head to head: 1-1
- Guarantees an unseeded player into the semi-finals
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Johanna Konta is growing in confidence with each win as she bids to be the first British woman to reach a Slam semi-final since 1983.
It is hard to believe, given the confidence of her performances so far, starting with her win over eighth seed Venus Williams, that this is Konta’s main draw debut. Probably because of the way she handled the pressure as the tide turned for her at the end of last year with a run to the fourth round of the US Open.
Yet she still remains grounded, humbled, but her confidence now allows her to be a little more playful in the press than perhaps a few months ago in Eastbourne, where a wildcard saw her make a dash to the quarter-final.
If you ask her if that was the turning point, she will reflect and say it has been a far longer journey, but wherever it started, glory beckons if she can get past the other story of an unheralded player.
Few would not have been moved by Zhang Shuai’s reaction when the qualifier won her opening round against second seed Simona Halep. The tears and emotion were real, as she admitted she had even thought of quitting the sport. Since then she has gone from strength to strength, outhitting a hobbled Madison Keys in her fourth round for a shot at the semi-final.
It has been a while since the pair met, with honours even both on hard court matches, and they are a perfect match on sets won and lost.
Konta has reached this point by being as calm as her coaches, who give nothing away. It has made her a calmer person on court, but don’t let that fool you – there were exhortations a plenty on court in the tense match against Ekaterina Makarova, and after all the adrenalin that has surged around Zhang these past few matches, we can expect a taut battle.
It would be easy to dismiss this on rankings alone, but Zhang’s confidence is an at an all time high as she is seven matches to the good already having played through qualifying.It is winnable for the Brit, but expect to see Zhang start off as quickly as she did against Keys, hitting hard and flat, and perhaps trying to stop Konta from gaining any kind of rhythm.
Konta and Zhang are scheduled on Rod Laver Arena, not before 12:30pm (1:30am GMT).
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