MELBOURNE • Johanna Konta is through to the fourth round of the Australian Open against Ekaterina Makarova - for the second year in a row - after beating the former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, and there are sound reasons to believe she can reach the final weekend of the tournament.
Konta got to the semi-finals 12 months ago when ranked 47 in the world, losing to the eventual champion Angelique Kerber, but her immediate goal is to get past Makarova tomorrow and then, in all probability, Serena Williams in the quarter-finals.
It is some ask, but the world No. 9 is playing the sort of disciplined tennis that has struck hesitancy into all her opponents over the past year.
Her serve clicked again, building on her reputation with six aces and 69 per cent of points won on second serve. She is pretty much impregnable with ball in hand, as she was last year when she led the Tour with second-serve success, the giveaway indicator of a solid game. Some of her ground strokes yesterday were stunning in power and precision.
Konta broke and held comfortably at the start of the second set, going on to win 6-3, 6-1, albeit double-faulting for the third time on match point when over-reaching for a grandstand finish.
"I definitely played a very high level," the Briton said courtside. "I was very happy with I guess the way I was able to assert myself from the very beginning, also tightening up my game a bit as that first set went on, and just maintain my level to the very end."
"Against someone like Caroline, she's not going to give it to you. You really do have to earn it and win it till the very last point."
SELECTED DAY 6 RESULTS
Men's 3rd rd
Dominic Thiem (Aut) bt Benoit Paire (Fra) 6-1 4-6 6-4 6-4, Denis Istomin (Uzb) bt Pablo Carreno-Busta (Esp) 6-4 4-6 6-4 4-6 6-2, Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt Alexander Zverev (Ger) 4-6 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-2, Gael Monfils (Fra) bt Philipp Kohlschreiber (Ger) 6-3 7-6 (7-1) 6-4, Milos Raonic (Can) bt Gilles Simon (Fra) 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 6-3.
Women's 3rd rd
Ekaterina Makarova (Rus) bt Dominika Cibulkova (Svk) 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 6-3, Barbora Strycova (Cze) bt Caroline Garcia (Fra) 6-2 7-5, Serena Williams (USA) bt Nicole Gibbs (USA) 6-1 6-3, Johanna Konta (Gbr) bt Caroline Wozniacki (Den) 6-3 6-1.
In three matches in the toughest section of the draw, Konta has given up just 16 games, fewer than either of last year's finalists, Kerber and Williams.
Her breakthrough last year marked the first time a British player had reached the semi-finals since Sue Barker in 1977.
She said of another big match against the Russian Makarova: "We had an incredibly close fourth round here last year. I beat her 8-6 in the third. You don't have any easy matches at this stage."
Makarova, who upset sixth seed Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, remembers last year's battle with Konta well.
"After that match, she started playing really good and all year at the top level," she said, adding that physically she felt 100 per cent and was ready to get her revenge.
Beyond Makarova lies an altogether different challenge - Williams, who defeated Nicole Gibbs 6-1, 6-3 yesterday.
The American plays tomorrow against 16th seed Barbora Strycova.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Day 7: Singtel TV Ch114/115 & StarHub Ch208/209, 8am & 4pm