Women’s Australian Open, Quarter-Final Preview for Wednesday: Johanna Konta v Shuai Zhang

Konta

Even before play began, the fourth quarter of the women’s draw always looked wide open… that opening turned into a gaping wide chasm on day 2 when the two highest seeds, Simona Halep and Venus Williams both exited in the first round. Never was it imagined that the two players to oust Simona and Venus would keep their runs going all the way to the last eight. In an all-unseeded quarter-final with both players in uncharted territory, Johanna Konta and Shuai Zhang will meet for a place in the last four at the 2016 Australian Open.

Konta won her first match of the year against Venus Williams, 6-4 6-2, and has continued to improve, round-by-round with wins over Saisai Zheng (6-2 6-3), Denisa Allertova (6-2 6-2) and Ekaterina Makarova (4-6 6-4 8-6). Konta is already projected to rise to number 32 in the world and she’s gone a long way this week to prove that last year was no fluke after a wonderful second half to the year which included a fourth round appearance at the US Open. Konta’s match against Makarova was a tense and bruising affair. In many ways, their games are similar and it was obvious early on that there would be little to separate the pair. Konta got a little tight serving with scoreboard pressure at *4-5 in the first set. She lost the first set on a double fault, but responded well to win the second set.

Konta failed to serve out the match in the third set with another nervy game up *5-4; however, she kept plugging away and at the second time of asking, with some stellar serving and some unforced errors from Makarova, sealed one of the biggest wins of her career. Konta staked her claim as the new Bourne-GOAT having also reached the Eastbourne quarter-finals last year! I was so impressed with the way Konta was playing; hitting aggressively, returning deep, coming forward and moving so well from side-to-side. While she has shown some nerves in closing out sets at this tournament, her confidence gauge is high and she’s showing full belief in her gameplan.

Zhang’s run has shone like a beacon at this tournament; after securing her first ever Grand Slam main draw win in the first round against Simona Halep,6-4 6-3, she has continued to surprise with wins over Alizé Cornet (6-3 6-3), Varvara Lepchenko (6-1 6-3) and Madison Keys (3-6 6-3 6-3). The victory over Keys was a struggle on all counts with the American player in tears from a leg injury. For Zhang though, this was still another incredible occasion to go with the series of memorable moments she has created this week. Winning a Slam main draw match has seemingly broken the mental barrier and she is riding a hugeeee wave of confidence…

Head-to-head record: Konta and Zhang have split their two previous encounters; Konta won back at the US Open in 2012, 6-4 3-6 7-5, but Zhang turned the tables in Guangzhou in 2013, winning, 7-5 6-3.

Interesting stat: Zhang has won more matches at this one tournament than she managed throughout the first six months of the 2015 season.

Analysis: While this is a very unexpected quarter-final, I think it’s awesome. One of the reasons I enjoy watching women’s tennis is the unpredictability factor and the depth on display. Both players have truly earnt their place in the last eight and it’s been a pleasure to learn more about their stories, particularly Zhang. It’s also refreshing that both players will be in the same boat having never experienced a Grand Slam quarter-final before. For that reason, it makes it trickier to predict because you never quite know how either player will respond to the occasion. I think there will be plenty of nerves on display and i’d expect this to go the distance. While Zhang has displayed some awesome hitting this week, i’m leaning towards Konta, who I think has the more complete game and will be the more consistent on the day.

Prediction: Konta d. Zhang in 3 sets

Photo in this post by mootennis.com

23 thoughts on “Women’s Australian Open, Quarter-Final Preview for Wednesday: Johanna Konta v Shuai Zhang

  1. All I’ve seen of zhang this fortnight was her second two sets against a very injured Keys- perhaps not the best period draw conclusions from. But I really didn’t see anything at all that suggested she had a game that would hurt Konta if the Brits playing well. It’s never easy playing against a very obviously struggling opponent, but Keys nearly managed to outhit her on one leg, and I think Konta will do so on two.

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    • I can’t really explain why but I felt surprisingly decisive in picking Konta over Zhang. From Zhang’s press conference, I got the sense that she does believe she can go further but also that she’s exhausted, both physically and mentally, from the past week or so. I’ll be happy for either player tbh and I think a lot of it will come down to who handles their nerves better on the day.

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  2. I think Konta will win the first and the last set. Whether it will be in two or in three sets I don’t know, but I am quite sure about that. This is actually what makes me nervous because my predictions are not very good. Still, Zhang will be tired and if Konta keep serving well hopefully through first serve, she will be just fine. Zhang didnt seem to be confortable with big hitting Keys and Konta can play close to that. And actually, am I the only person who thinks that Keys just should retired that match? I bet on Zhang so I am glad it was like it was, but still.

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    • Frankly speaking ( I am Frank 🙂 ), I don’t consider Konta is a big hitter like Keys. I watched both Konta vs Makarova and Keys vs Zhang matches live in the stadium. I could tell the difference.

      Generally, Konta is a bad match up for Makarova. Both played similar styles except Konta maintained her consistency better in that match. From my point of view, Konta and Makarova are pushers who can hit a bit harder than other pushers on the hard court.

      I know people predicted this match based on Zhang previous match (whatever happened yesterday will also happen today). It can be very tricky. I don’t think Zhang will panic playing Konta because both are dark horses. Like James mentioned before, It comes down to nerve control if fatigue is not an issue for Zhang.

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  3. Every dream run has to end and for Zhang , Konta will do that.Zhang couldn’t finish the 3rd set emphatically with Madison who was literally on one leg.She will now feel the real heat and pressure of big stage.Earlier she had nothing to lose but now her mind will be occupied with that.The mental side will make her underperform.Brit in 2 sets.

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    • Had you expected Lisicki to reach her first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon in 2013? Li Na won her RG in 2011…..

      Both players feel similar pressures at this stage. I may be biased because I love the underdog to win ..

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    • Born in Australia to Hungarian parents. How can you call her Brit…except she changed her passport to British nationality? It is easy to do nowadays. Australian media quick to call her “Australia raised” Konta….lollll!

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  4. This match could go either way,kudos to both Konta and Zhang for making the q/finals of a GS for starters.
    Zhang has to be the ‘good feel story’ of the AO,considering she was thinking of retirement.Like the way Konta stayed strong in her last match.

    I will pick Zhang in 3 tights sets,though it would not surprise me if Konta wins.

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  5. So are the people picking Zhang to win, Brit fans looking to avoid a jinx? Zhang’s match against a one-legged Keys was telling. She crumbled under the pressure and a return to form doesn’t look good for her outlook. I think Konta’s previous experience on the big stage will get her through possibly in 2 sets.

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  6. Congratulations to Konta d Zhang 64 61.Konta becomes the first British woman to reach a major SF since 1983.Konta will move into the Top 30 with this win.Well Done!

    I also would like to congratulate Zhang making her first q/final in a GS.I hope she will take the positives from this tournament and build on them.Good luck!

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    • Yes, exceedingly pleased with Konta. It was a good run form Zhang, I wonder if retirement is still on the cards now that she has ‘unlocked her mojo’.

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      • That’s what she said Margaret! And she wants to invite the whole world to her bar. I’m really happy for her though cause this experience will really be a big plus for her emotionally whatever she chooses to do next. It’s a feel good story, at the end of a tough journey.

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      • Also chuffed for Konta, i’m smiling at both these results! Lovely hug at the net between the pair. Zhang has been the story of the tournament up till now. I watched back Konta-Makarova last night and was so impressed with Jo. It was a fantastic match.

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