Melbourne - Johanna Konta became the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam
semi-final since 1983 Wednesday when she ended the dream run of Chinese
qualifier Zhang Shuai at the Australian Open.
Konta, who came through a draining three-setter in the fourth round,
recovered to oust Zhang 6-4, 6-1 and set up a last-four clash against
German seventh seed Angelique Kerber.
Kerber stunned two-time champion Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 7-5 in the match preceding Konta's on Rod Laver Arena.
24-year-old Konta, who has blossomed in the last year, had never been
beyond the fourth round at a Slam before but she now equals fellow Brits
Virginia Wade (1972, en route to the title) and Sue Barker (1975 and
1977) in making the Melbourne semis.
In her Australian Open debut,
she also became the first British woman to reach a semi-final at any of
the Grand Slam tournament since since Jo Durie at the US Open in 1983.
"She didn't make it easy," an ecstatic Konta said of Zhang. "I'm happy. I was able to fight every single point.
"I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed playing in front of the big crowd.
didn't put anything on this match, I just wanted to come out and play
the best level that I could, and give the best entertainment I could."
time last year Konta was ranked 147 and fell in qualifying for
Melbourne Park, but she has since risen 100 places, crediting her
transformation with a new mental attitude.
She stunned eighth seed
Venus Williams in the opening round and has stayed on a roll ever
since, having more finesse and power than Zhang.
The Chinese star,
who had lost all 14 of her previous Grand Slam matches before this
year's tournament, was responsible for the demise of second seed Simona
Halep and injured 15th seed Madison Keys. But the 27-year-old was always
playing catch-up to Konta.
A pair of
comfortable service holds got the match underway as the two women, who
had met each other twice before, sharing the spoils, probed for
Konta soon put Zhang under scrutiny, claiming an early break with a bullet backhand to impose her authority.
consolidated her lead with an ace, a smashed winner and delicate
looping lob to go 3-1 in front as Zhang scrambled around the court
looking for answers.
The Chinese star, ranked 133 and who nearly
retired last year, disillusioned with her form, did not trouble the
Konta serve until the eighth game, as the Briton served for the set.
gave herself three set points but failed to bury any of them, missing
routine winners as the pressure told, before sending down a double fault
that gifted Zhang her first break to stay in touch at 3-5.
a way back, Zhang held her serve, emphatically with a volley, then
created a break point as Konta again served for the set. But the Briton
fended it off and finally took the lead on her sixth set point with a
The second set opened with a break apiece before Konta
latched onto another unforced error from Zhang to go a break up, before
holding serve to race 3-1 in front.
Zhang, once ranked 30 in the
world, looked a spent force and was broken again in the fifth game. She
fended off two match points on her serve but a double fault gave Konta a
third chance, and this time the Briton made no mistake.