PARIS • Johanna Konta's French Open dream gathered pace yesterday as she destroyed in-form American Sloane Stephens 6-1, 6-4 to become the first British semi-finalist at the Grand Slam event since Jo Durie in 1983.
It was one of her best career performances, packed with searing serves and six aces among 25 winners to leave last year's finalist clueless from start to finish in 71 minutes. Prior to this year, Konta had not won a match at Roland Garros in any of her previous four visits.
Chris Evert, who was commentating for Eurosport, was also left stunned by "one of the best clay-court matches ever".
The retired American great, who before the match-up had predicted victory for her compatriot, said: "I could not see this coming. But all credit to Jo. I'm speechless. Not even giving her a glimpse... Jo, I take my hat off to you."
Konta, predictably, tried to keep a cap on her emotions, but said: "This is my first match on the new Chatrier (centre court) and playing the way I did against one of the best players in the world, I'm feeling really proud of myself.
"Dealing with the windy conditions against an opponent like Sloane, I was just pleased to keep her on the back foot a little bit."
Stephens might have thought she was playing herself, so pinpoint direct were the replies coming across the net, with Konta firing four aces and 12 winners in the opening 35 minutes. The 2017 US Open champion said: "She likes to play on hard court and grass, and the court was very fast today, and that worked in her favour."
If Konta, the 26th seed, played her best tennis to beat Croatia's Donna Vekic in the fourth round, this first set was a notch up from that. Her challenge was to sustain a level that must have surprised even her - and probably her low-key coach, Dimitri Zavialoff.
Number of points Briton Johanna Konta lost in all her service games in the second set en route to beating American Sloane Stephens 6-1, 6-4 in the quarter-finals.
There was no hiding place for Stephens in the second set, as Konta kept up the machine-gun pace to break her for the third time and such was her domination that she allowed the 26-year-old American just one point on her serve.
Tomorrow, Konta will make her third career Grand Slam semi-final appearance, with the others coming at the 2016 Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2017, and will be confident of finally making the breakthrough to her first final.
Although inconsistency and injuries have seen her drop from a career-high of world No. 4 in July 2017, Konta has turned it around lately, reaching the finals in Rabat and Rome ahead of Roland Garros.
As Evert watched the 28-year-old Konta cruise towards the finish line, the 18-time Grand Slam singles winner added: "Playing like this, there isn't anyone who could beat her."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, DPA, THE GUARDIAN
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