With every win, Johanna Konta looks more and more like the real deal – a Grand Slam champion in the making. Her latest victory – against Russian Ekaterina Makarova, who she beat 6-1, 6-4 –in the fourth round of the Australian Open proved that the British No.1 is able to handle both the rising pressure and the sizzling Antipodean heat.
At certain points during the afternoon, the mercury rose to a scarcely believable 37°C – a temperature that makes most of us want to lie down in a dark room forever, not play one of the biggest matches of our tennis career. However, Konta ensured she got off to a quick start, winning the first three games in under ten minutes and then brilliantly going from strength to strength throughout the set.
Konta’s serve was particularly deadly: when it wasn’t whizzing past Makarova, it was pulling her out of position and forcing her onto the back foot (here are a few tips to make sure your serve does the same). Consequently, the first set was almost finished before it began, winding up at6-1.
It wasn’t such plain sailing for Konta in the second set – she fell 4-1 behind as Makarova began a spirited fightback. But Konta soon turned on the style to win five games in a row, serve for the match and see off three break points. It’s testament to Konta’s sheer determination and willpower that she didn’t allow Makarova to gain a foothold and take it to a third set, which, given the heat, would have been utterly draining.
“I’m really happy to have come through that,” Konta said after the victory. “I came out playing at a higher level than she did but she was able to pull herself back into the match and made it really difficult for me. I just had to trust myself. At least it wasn’t three hours like when we played last year”.
However, there’s no time for Konta to rest on her laurels. Her opponent in the quarter-final needs no introduction, but here’s one anyway: six-time Australian Open champion and arguably the best player of all time Serena Williams.
The two have never played each other before and the American legend has certainly done her research: “I have watched her game a lot. She’s been playing really well. 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. Everything here is a bonus for me,” she told the Guardian.
That said, not much seems to faze Konta at the moment. “I’ve played quite a few Grand Slam champions and former world number ones,” she said. “So I’ve prepared myself as much as possible for a competitor like Serena.”
The crunch match between the two will begin at midnight on Wednesday UK time, but you definitely won’t need coffee to stay awake.