By Ros Satar
- Johanna Konta  def. Zhang Shuai 6-4 6-0
- Konta faces Keys in the China Open semi-final with a spot in the WTA Finals at stake
BEIJING, CHINA – The Road to Singapore got a little shorter for both Johanna Konta and Madison Keys as they face each other in the WTA Beijing China Open semi-final.
Johanna Konta  def. Zhang Shuai 6-4 6-0
For their third meeting this year alone, and their second in as many weeks, it was another chance for the Chinese player to give the home crowd something to cheer, as she sped ahead 4-0 against the Brit much to the enthusiastic cheering of the crowd.
Konta is nothing if not determined, working her way onto the scoreboard with a break and she effectively silenced the crowd as she picked off the second break advantage, holding to draw level at 4-4 before trotting out the next two games, reeling off six in a row to take the first set, to love no less.
With a member of the crowd distracting the players taking a long stroll around before taking up their seat despite calls from the umpire to sit down anywhere, it did nothing to disrupt Konta’s rhythm. In fact quite the opposite – Konta was far more efficient in her strokes, and put the pressure on Zhang as she shot through the second set denying the Chinese player a chance to get on the board.
Konta v Madison Keys  – H2H: Keys leads 1-0
Konta could be perhaps forgiven for not remembering the encounter (Bayamon $25K in 2010, when Keys was aged 15!) (H/t @WTAInsider):
Turns out you *can* stump Jo Konta @ChinaOpen.
You’re forgiven, Jo. Madison was 15-years-old. pic.twitter.com/tA7jJ0TwDC
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) October 7, 2016
Konta retired after dropping the first set 7-5 but it is fair to say that both have enjoyed a lot more success especially over this year. Keys is enjoying a patch of injury free play while Konta’s breakout year shows no sign of slowing down just yet.
There is a lot at stake in this match, with regards to the season ending finale. A win for Keys will cement her spot in the line-up, while Konta has been able to make up ground this week having been 11th, behind Svetlana Kuznetsova and Carla Suárez Navarro this week. Meanwhile a win for the Brit will see her overtake Dominika Cibulkova for the final qualifying berth.
Add to that Konta is once more within grasp of reaching the World Top 10, giving Britain their first female player to reach that rankings in 32 years, since Jo Durie.
Keys’ improved confidence showed against an in-form Kvitova, who can certainly thump the ball back at her with as much power and pace as Keys gives over the net. What seems to have changed for Keys is more confidence in her shots and perhaps a better sense of shot selection where once upon a time Keys would admit to trying the same shot over and over even if it was failing.
She handles the pressure a lot better these days and against a player like Konta, who generally keeps everything within, she will need to have that sense of calm. That being said we have seen a fair few jitters at times from Konta, often eased by the positive reinforcement from her coach Esteban Carril.
Both players have tried to play down the Road to Singapore buzz, and with the pressure of the Top 10 on the line once more, it will be a tough one for the Brit to pull off.
Prediction: Konta in three sets.
Konta and Keys are scheduled on the National Tennis Stadium at, not before 2:30pm (7:30am BST).
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