9th seed Johanna Konta is back in the Australian Open quarterfinals after defeating 30th seed Ekaterina Makarova 6-1, 6-4. Konta now faces 2nd seed Serena Williams for a spot in the semifinals.
It was the Brit who got off to a fast start, pummeling a backhand at 15-40, forcing a weak reply from Makarova, the 9th seed 2-0 ahead while taking eight of the first ten points. Makarova would push Konta to deuce in her next service game, but the 2016 semifinalist managed to hold for a 3-0 lead.
The set was already all but over for the Russian, but at 4-1 down, it was confirmed when Konta achieved a second break. Her backhand again did the damage, hitting a cold winner at 0-30 and drawing a forehand error from Makarova at 0-40 to get the break. She closed out the set with an ace on set point, a magnificent punctuation mark on a dominant first set.
The second set saw much improved play from Makarova and she was rewarded for her efforts in the fourth game when her forehand down the line for a winner at 30-40 gave her a 3-1 lead. Her lead was extended to 4-1, but little did she know that would be the last game she would win.
Leading 4-2 and on the verge of forcing a third set, the Russian capitulated, giving her serve away at 30-40 when her passing shot floated long. Now back on serve, Konta was back on track and she held for 4-4. She reached 30-30 on Makarova’s service game and was donated the break when the Russian missed long on her first forehand to set up break point and wide with another forehand to give it away.
Now serving for the match, the Brit fell behind 0-40, but erased those break opportunities with a unreturnable serve, forehand winner down the line and ace to get back to deuce. After setting up match point, Makarova staved off elimination with a sublime backhand winner crosscourt, but when presented with a second chance to win the match, Konta took it, drawing an error and sealing her spot in the last eight.
Konta was terrific on serve with nine aces and winning 80% of her first serve points. She also committed only 13 unforced errors while taking 4 of her 5 break chances. Against Williams, she’ll need that type of clean performance if she is to spring the mild upset. She does have weapons that can overcome the American, namely her serve and groundstrokes.
This will be the first meeting between Konta and Williams, so there may be a “feeling out” process as each gets adjusted to the other’s game. Although she is no longer a surprise to go deep at a major, as she was when she arrived at Melbourne last year, the Brit is playing with nothing to lose as Williams is the favorite to win her 23rd major title, even more so with the draw opening up.
How Konta handles her own serve as well as returning Williams’ serve will be a big key to this match.