US Open 2019: Johanna Konta beats Pliskova to reach first New York quarter-final
Konta has made semis of the other three Majors; faces Svitolina to complete set
Johanna Konta took a huge step closer to completing her ‘set’ of Major semi-finals with a gutsy, 2hrs 20mins, three-set win over No3 seed Karolina Pliskova after losing the first set in a tie-break.
Konta stormed back from a 3-1 deficit in the second set to reach her first quarter-final at the US Open, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5, against a woman many tipped as one of the favourites for the title in New York, a woman who had beaten Konta in six out of seven previous meetings, including the final in Rome in May.
It was the latest in a run of impressive performances by the Briton, whose very first Major match-wins came at the US Open—a first-round victory in 2012 and a fourth-round run in 2015, before she burst through the ranks to the semis in Australia at the start of 2016.
And after two straight opening-round losses at Flushing Meadows in the last two years, and a dip in form and confidence during 2018, Konta is back to her confident, big-hitting best in the city where it all took off.
She has been building ever-more-impressive wins with each round. A potentially difficult opener against the talented Daria Kasatkina showed all Konta’s grit over a three-set test, before she went on to beat Margarita Gasparyan in just 54 minutes.
The Briton took the next step via a blistering 72-minute performance over the No33 seed Shuai Zhang, 6-2, 6-3, notching up 34 winners for just 18 unforced errors to take her to the fourth round. But Pliskova, a former finalist at the US Open and subsequently, for two months, the world No1, was always going to be a serious test.
However, the growth in Konta’s self-belief since tying up with coach Dimitri Zavialoff last October and a stand-out performance by the GB squad in Fed Cup this spring, has lifted her game back to its 2017 level, when she reached No4 in the ranks.
So despite dominating most of a first set in which Pliskova landed eight aces, and then exchanging breaks early in the second set, Konta reeled off five straight games to take the second set. And once Pliskova blinked on serve just ahead of a third-set tie-break, Konta staved off a break-back point to serve out the win, with 45 winners clocked up in her stats, and an almost 70 percent strike-rate on her first serve.
The task gets no less daunting in the quarter-finals, though. No5 seed Svitolina is one of the tour’s best hard-court players, is the current WTA Finals champion, and counts titles in Dubai, Toronto, and Brisbane among her 13. And while she has not won a title so far this year, she made her first semi-final at Wimbledon, and also reached the semis in Dubai and Indian Wells. What is more, she has a 3-0 main-tour head-to-head over Konta, all on hard courts, most recently in Montreal last year.
Konta was, for now, delighted with this particular victory and by becoming the first British woman to reach the quarter-finals in New York since Jo Durie in 1983.
“I’ve been in the fourth round twice before, so reaching the quarter-finals is a massive achievement for me. The key was to keep going… It is about staying out there and trusting the fundamental things. It was a great match and I’m so happy.
“I’m really pleased [to match Durie]. I think for me more on a personal level to have made it to the quarters for my third Slam in a row, I think that’s a really, really big achievement for me.
“Obviously I’m looking forward to keep going further and further. You know how I am: I take one match at a time. I don’t really look forward too much more. I think it will be important for me to enjoy this victory today and then prepare for what comes next tomorrow.”
Konta is only the 14th active player to have reached the last eight of all four Majors, as is Svitolina with her own first run to the US quarters.
Also in this quarter, Serena Williams advanced to her 16th quarter-final at the US Open alone, and the mighty American has won multiple titles at all four of the Majors. She beat No22 seed Petra Martic, 6-3, 6-4, though there will be concerns for the home favourite after she twisted her ankle in the second set and needed a medical time-out.
She said afterwards:
“I just rolled it, I don’t know why. I was volleying and it just went over—that was frustrating but I wanted to get it compressed really fast.”
Williams, last year’s runner-up, has played only seven events this year, and in four of them she was forced either to retire or withdraw mid-tournament with injury. She next faces No18 seed Qiang Wang, who was a surprise winner over world No2 and French Open champion Ashleigh Barty, 6-2, 6-4.
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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
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