Konta and Zhang continue their dream run
A relieved Johanna Konta became the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final since 1984 when she came through a three-set slugfest at the Australian Open yesterday.
The unseeded Konta, ranked 47 in the world, ground down Russian 21st seed Ekaterina Makarova 4-6, 6-4, 8-6 in three hours, four minutes on Margaret Court Arena - the second longest women's match of the tournament.
The draining victory marked the Australian-born 24-year-old's furthest progression at a Grand Slam, and is the best British effort at a major since Jo Durie made the Wimbledon quarter-finals 32 years ago.
Durie also reached the Australian Open quarters in 1983.
The only other British women to get as far were Virginia Wade, who won the tournament in 1972, and Sue Barker, who made the semis twice.
"Goodness gracious," said Konta, who stunned eighth seed Venus Williams in the first round, as the victory sunk in.
"Mentally, emotionally and physically, I left it all out there on the court.
"I ran down every ball and kept fighting for every point and fortunately managed to capitalise on some opportunities and close it out in the end."
Konta had beaten the left-hander during their only previous meeting, at Eastbourne last year, and she made it two out of two as she outlasted the Russian, a semi-finalist last year.
It was an impressive win against a player who has always enjoyed Melbourne Park, making the fourth round or better on her last six outings, including the quarter-finals in 2012 and 2013.
"I'm just incredibly happy and humbled with the way I was able to compete today. That's the thing I'm most happy about," said Konta.
The Sydney-born Konta, who became a British citizen in 2012, said she had held up well physically and while she joked she was going out to enjoy the Melbourne nightlife, her immediate plans involved going to bed.
"I actually feel pretty good," she said. "It's a very emotionally charged situation to be in.
"I'm going straight back to bed. I'm really looking forward to it." - AFP.
Zhang's dream continues
Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai maintained her dream Australian Open run yesterday, as she battled past the injured and tearful 15th seed Madison Keys and into a quarter-final against British-hope Johanna Konta.
Zhang had lost all 14 of her previous Grand Slam matches before this year's tournament, but she has now won four in a row after beating Keys 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, as the American struggled with an upper left leg injury.
It was a devastating finale for Keys, who needed treatment on her leg which hampered her movement.
She gamely continued but was clearly in pain as she wept freely on court.
"Bad luck, Madison. She was injured and I'm very lucky today," said Zhang, at her courtside interview after the match.
"It was so difficult to concentrate because I could see she was in pain."
"But it's so exciting for me."
The 27-year-old, who nearly retired last year, has now accounted for world No. 2 Simona Halep, 33rd-ranked Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, 51st-ranked Varvara Lepchenko and Keys.
Zhang first came to prominence in 2009 when she became the lowest-ranked player to defeat a reigning world No. 1 - Dinara Safina at the China Open - and she was once ranked 30th in the world.
But her serial failure at Grand Slams and a horror 2015 in which she fell eight times in the first round and six times in qualifying convinced her it was time to call it quits.
Her team told her to give it one more shot at Melbourne Park this year, and she now has a chance to make the semi-finals. - AFP.