tennis

Konta win boosts Britain's profile at Australian Open

Johanna Konta will play in her first grand slam semi-final.
Johanna Konta will play in her first grand slam semi-final. Reuterss/Issei Kato

It was a flag raising day for British tennis players on Wednesday at the Australian Open in Melbourne. Johanna Konta moved into the last four of a grand slam tournament for the first time. Second seed Andy Murray advanced to the semis thanks to a four set win over the eighth seeded Spaniard David Ferrer. 

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It's familiar ground for Murray. Six of his 18 grand slam semi-final appearances have come in Australia. However, it's new territory for his compatriot Konta.

She reached the first major semi of her career following a straight sets win over Zhang Shuai from China.

It finished 6-4 6-1. She is the first British woman to a reach a gand slam semi-final since 1983. It is the first time that two British singles players - man or woman - have featured in the last four at the same grand slam event since John Lloyd and Sue Barker at the 1977 Australian Open.

The icing on the British cake was added when Murray's brother, Jamie, progressed to  the men's doubles semi-finals with his Brazilian partner Bruno Soares.

Andy Murray said it was a special time for British tennis, after he also led his country to Davis Cup glory against Belgium in November - the first time they have won the tournament since 1936.

"It's pretty good for us to have people competing in almost all of the competitions," said Murray. "It's been a good Australian Open so far. Hopefully we can keep it going. To be in this position is great.

"It's really, really good for tennis on the back end of last year with the Davis Cup as well. It's extremely positive and we've just got to try and capitalise on it."

Konta claimed she did not wobble as she served for the first set when leading Zhang 5-2. The Briton squandered three set points before she lost her serve. Zhang increased the pressure by holding her serve to make it 5-4 to Konta.

But the 24-year-old did not falter at the second time of asking. "I'm very proud with the way I was able to keep focused at the end of that set," she said. "I don't feel I did much wrong. She definitely raised her level and made me work for it. It was a battle and I'm very happy to have won it at the end and keep the momentum going into the second set."

That set turned out to be one way traffic. Konta was in command as it finished 6-1.

Konta, who lost in the opening round of the Australian Open qualifying tournament in 2015, will take on Angelique Kerber - the first German to advance to the Australian Open semis since Anke Huber in 1998.

Kerber's victory over the 14th seed Victoria Azarenka was greeted as a surprise. Azarenka had been in blistering form leading up to the last eight. She had not lost a set. That intimidating statistic changed when the free hitting Kerber claimed it 6-3.

It appeared a minor setback as Azarenka surged into a 5-2 lead in the second set. But Kerber showed impressive resilience and won five straight games to clinch the match. It was her first win over Azarenka in seven meetings.

"I went out on to the court with a lot of confidence," she said after the match. "I was trying to believe in myself and just going for my shots."

 

 

 

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