Tennis: Konta playing better than ever, says US legend King; French Open quarter-finals washed out

Johanna Konta became the first British woman since 1983 to reach the French Open semi-finals with an impressive straight-sets win over Sloane Stephens (not pictured).
Johanna Konta became the first British woman since 1983 to reach the French Open semi-finals with an impressive straight-sets win over Sloane Stephens (not pictured).PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - American tennis great Billie Jean King said on Wednesday (June 5), when torrential rain caused a complete washout of quarter-final action at Roland Garros,  that she thinks Johanna Konta is playing "the best" she has in her tennis career so far.

The 28-year-old Konta became the first British woman since 1983 to reach the French Open semi-finals with an impressive straight-sets win over last year's runner-up Sloane Stephens on Tuesday (June 4), and will face Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova for a final place.

It was the second time since 2016 that all French Open play was cancelled and third since 2000.

The decision left world No. 1  Novak Djokovic and defending women’s champion Simona Halep having to play their quarter-finals on Thursday and semi-finals on Friday if they get through.

Only three of the top 10 women's seeds made the quarter-finals at Roland Garros this year, with third seed Halep and eighth seed Ashleigh Barty due to play against Americans Amanda Anisimova and Madison Keys respectively.

With the women’s final set for Saturday, Romanian Halep could end up playing three days in a row.

Djokovic had been due to face German fifth seed Alexander Zverev on Court Philippe Chatrier. On Court Suzanne Lenglen, Keys was due to play Australian Barty before 2018 runner-up Dominic Thiem clashed with Russia’s Karen Khachanov.

The first quarter-finals had been completed on Tuesday, with 11-time champion Rafael Nadal setting up a Friday semi-final against old rival Roger Federer.

The match against Vondrousova will be Konta's third Grand Slam semi-final, after the 2016 Australian Open and Wimbledon two years ago.

"Konta right now is probably playing the best I've ever seen her play. I think she's actually better now," said 12-time Grand Slam singles champion King at an International Tennis Federation press conference in Paris.

"She's really concentrating well and she's hitting so big. Her serve is big, her groundstrokes are big. She's totally focused right now. She just has to stay the way she is.

 
 

"I think her concentration is better now, day in, day out. I think sometimes she just gets a little hyped up too much and she seems to be very calm right now."

Konta, who had never won a French Open main-draw match before this tournament, is looking to become Britain's first women's Grand Slam champion since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977.

King believes the unpredictability of the tournament is good for the women's game, after both world No. 1 Naomi Osaka and 23-time Grand Slam singles winner Serena Williams both crashed out in the third round.

"I think anyone can win in women's tennis right now. We don't have like the old days with Chris (Evert) and Martina (Navratilova) - that top two or three, like the men do right now," said the 75-year-old.

"That makes it for me personally that much more interesting, because it's such a toss-up."