French Open – Johanna Konta ready to take the next step in Paris

Johanna Konta is delighted to be back in the quarter-finals of a grand slam, but the British No 1 does not want to stop there.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 3rd June 2019, 12:42 am
Britain's Johanna Konta celebrates winning her fourth round match against Croatia's Donna Vekic in two sets. Picture: AP/Christophe Ena
Britain's Johanna Konta celebrates winning her fourth round match against Croatia's Donna Vekic in two sets. Picture: AP/Christophe Ena

Konta produced one of the best displays of her career to defeat 23rd seed Donna Vekic 6-2 6-4 in the fourth round of the French Open and make the last eight at a slam for the fourth time.

Konta was already the first British woman through to the fourth round at Roland Garros since 1983 and she is now one win away from matching Jo Durie’s achievement of making the semi-finals that year.

It is by some distance her best grand slam run since she reached the last four at Wimbledon two years ago, after which she experienced feelings of burn-out and a dramatic slump in her fortunes.

“I have only been at this stage a handful of times,” said Konta. “So to be back here I’m definitely very pleased.

“This is not my end goal or anything, I would love to be here until the very end, but I’m also doing my best at really enjoying the different matches I get to play and the different accomplishments that I get to experience. [Yesterday] was definitely one.”

The British No 1 seems sure to face a tough match next against seventh seed and last year’s runner-up Sloane Stephens, who was a 6-4 6-2 winner over former champion Garbine Muguruza.

If she could come through that, though, the chance of a first grand slam final would certainly open up given the other match in her half is between two first-time quarter-finalists in Croatia’s Petra Martic and teenage Czech Marketa Vondrousova.

Going into the fourth round only nine of the 32 seeds were left in the draw, with Saturday seeing the exits of world No 1 Naomi Osaka and 23-time grand slam singles champion Serena Williams.

Asked if there was a feeling everyone was beatable, Konta said: “I think that’s been the growing mood for quite some time now. It’s nice to see competitive matches and for people to also enjoy matches where nothing’s a given.”

Konta had produced a display of fierce but controlled hitting to swat aside Viktoria Kuzmova in the third round, but Vekic was a step up in class.

The 22-year-old Croatian has had a very good season and had won her previous two matches against Konta.

In all they had played six times previously, most memorably in the second round at Wimbledon in 2017 where Konta came through 10-8 in a deciding set.

Another close battle had been anticipated, but Konta took a grip of the match from the start and did not relent, serving powerfully and accurately and sending her ground strokes fizzing into the corners.

Konta broke Vekic’s serve three times in the opening set before clinching it with an ace after saving three break points with winners.

Her only missed step was allowing Vekic to break back for 4-4 in the second set, but Konta promptly broke again before serving out the match to love.

The 28-year-old said: “It was a good match. I thought I had very, very few drops in my level, which I think definitely kept the pressure on her.”

In the singles, third seed Roger Federer continued his straightforward progress through the draw with a 6-2 6-3 6-3 victory over Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer.

Federer is one of three men in the draw yet to drop a set and he brushed aside Mayer in just an hour and 42 minutes.

The 37-year-old did not face a break point in the match, losing only eight points on his first serve, and hit 30 winners.

Federer will play his old friend and rival Stan Wawrinka after the 34-year-old won an extraordinary contest against sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The pair battled for five hours and nine minutes on Court Suzanne Lenglen before Wawrinka eventually triumphed 7-6 (6) 5-7 6-4 3-6 8-6.

In the final set Wawrinka dug in to save eight break points and then took his second match point when the umpire confirmed a desperate backhand had caught the edge of the line.

Rafael Nadal followed Federer onto Court Philippe Chatrier and emerged with an identical win, beating another Argentinian, Juan Ignacio Londero, 6-2 6-3 6-3.

Nadal had dropped a set in his third-round clash with David Goffin, but was in no mood to repeat that against Londero, who is making his debut at Roland Garros this year.

He managed one break of the Nadal serve to claw his way back from 4-1 to 4-3 down in the third set but that was as good as it got.

Britain’s Joe Salisbury reached his second grand slam quarter-final in men’s doubles with American partner Rajeev Ram.

The pair took on eighth seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers and a tight match came down to a deciding tie-break, which Salisbury and Ram won to seal a 3-6 6-3 7-6 (5) triumph. They next take on French duo Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin.