Melbourne - Serena Williams knows she must be at her
tenacious best to join sister Venus in the Australian Open semi-finals, with a
confident Johanna Konta determined to crash the party on Wednesday.
The American's unrelenting quest for a record 23rd Grand
Slam title to surpass Steffi Graf and return to world number one was tested by
Barbora Strycova in round four, and Konta won't be any easier.
The British ninth seed has set herself up as a genuine title
contender with an impressive nine-match unbeaten streak after winning this
month's Sydney International.
At stake is a semi-final with either comeback queen Mirjana
Lucic-Baroni or fifth seed Czech Karolina Pliskova, with Venus Williams and
fellow American Coco Vandeweghe contesting the other.
Williams, chasing her seventh Australian title, is aware of
the danger posed by Konta.
"I have watched her game a lot. She's been doing
really, really well, and she hasn't lost yet this year," she said.
"She has a very attacking game. I know her game pretty
well. I look forward to it."
"I have absolutely nothing to lose in this
tournament," added the second seed. Everything here is a bonus for me.
Obviously I'm here to win."
Her coach Patrick Mouratoglou said that to counter Konta's
lightning fast game, Williams, who can retrieve the top world ranking is she
wins the final, needed to start moving better around the court.
"We have to solve that, especially against Konta, who
is someone who plays so fast, so aggressive, takes the ball early. You can't
afford to be slow," he said, the Herald Sun reported.
"It was not that she won Sydney but it was also the way
that she won it. She has no doubts at the moment."
Like many players Sydney-born Konta, who has blossomed over
the past two years, making the semi-finals in Melbourne last year, used to
watch Williams as a child growing up.
She said it will be an honour to be on the same court, but
she won't be overawed in her first career meeting with the American great.
"I'm really looking forward to the challenge, and I'm
looking forward to being on court, out on court with her and competing against
her," she said.
"Just the amount of experience she has, I'm sure she's
got her system and her method for preparing for every match, regardless who she
plays, and I'm sure she's going to be applying that method against me."
Preceding them on Rod Laver Arena will be Lucic-Baroni and
Lucic-Baroni, who was making waves as a teenage prodigy when
the Williams sisters were emerging in the late 1990s, is in her first Grand
Slam quarter-final in 18 years.
She is looking to keep her fairytale comeback on track
against a player who made the US Open final last year.
"I'm still here. I'm still fighting," said the
34-year-old, who was a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 1999 aged 17 before personal
difficulties forced her out of the game for years.
The Croat beat third seed Agnieszka Radwanska en-route to
the quarter-finals and Pliskova, last year's US Open finalist, is wary of the
threat she poses.
"Definitely, she's playing really well here," she
"These conditions probably suit her as well. She has to
be playing well when she's in the quarter-finals. I just going to expect tough
match. I have to be ready.
"It's going to be probably a fast game, not many
rallies. So I have to be really ready on my legs, serving well. I think I have