Maybe it was a measure of the homework that Serena Williams had done before, watching a lot of Johanna Konta’s game that she commended her way into the semi-finals once more in Melbourne. It was a solid start by both of them – with Konta looking to take the ball early, and Williams finding the speed early on her serve, while Konta opened her account with a serve to love.
But her second serve started to crumble under Williams’ pressure – her next game being not at all as comfortable, with Williams securing the break. It would not survive the battering as the Brit was broken once more for Williams to claim the first set. There were just the faintest flurry of British hopes as Konta converted on just her second break point chance to take an early lead at the start of the second set, but a brutal break to love nailed the coffin all but shut.
Williams pressed home the advantage, breaking Konta once more before serving out to love for a place in her eighth semi-final at Melbourne. It looked like Williams was back to her best, even allowing for a few issues with her serve. Even though Konta failed to match her semi-final run from last year, she has the dubious honour of being the first British woman to outperform a man at a Grand Slam since the 1993 Australian Open after British and World No. 1 Andy Murray was knocked out on Sunday.
She said, after the match: “I think it was probably one of the best experiences of my life. I think there’s so many things I can learn from that, so many things I can look to improve on, also acknowledge some things that I did well.
“I think, credit to her, she played an almost perfect first set. I felt she really did incredibly well. she just showed and shows why she is who she is.”
As much as Konta could take positives from the match – this loss also hurt.
She admitted: “I was crying, so I’m a bit blocked up. I’m generally quite an emotional person. I think I’ve never hid that away. I’ve worked incredibly hard to direct that emotion into a positive way and into a constructive way on court. But off court I’m still very emotional.”
Williams said on court that she felt that Konta could be a future champion here, commenting on her game:
“All around, I feel like she’s a great all-around player. So I feel like I had to be on it all around today. She’s a player that I actually watch a lot. I don’t know, they play her a lot on the TV. I’ve always wanted to play her. So it was a good opportunity to go out there.”
Looking ahead to her battle against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, she remembers a ti e when the pair were setting the tennis world alight, clashing at Wimbledon in 1998.
She remembered: “I remember winning. I was so excited because I was so young. She obviously was super young, too. Honestly, we have totally different games now, the both of us. We both have gone through a lot. We both have survived, and here we are, which I think is a really remarkable story.”
With Williams now looking the overwhelming favourite to not only lift the trophy on Sunday, but to recapture the World No. 1 spot, what could Konta take away from the encounter, as she looks to prepare to spearhead Team GB under new captain Anne Keothavong.
“I definitely would have liked to have done a bit better. I’m also really grateful and feel very good that I had this opportunity. I think there’s a lot that I will be able to learn from it and take away from it, look to apply.
“Hopefully I’ll get another chance to play her, but not just her, but in other matches and other players who are able to make you feel that similar kind of time pressure within the points, but also just the way that they’re able to impose themselves. I think I’ll be able to use a lot of things that I learnt from today in other matches as well.”
If anyone had any doubts that Konta could not back up her ascension into the World Top 10, perhaps they might have a few second thoughts now, and that is definitely not something to cry over.
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