Konta ends 33-year wait for Britain

Australian Open (File)
Australian Open (File)

Melbourne - Johanna Konta became the first British woman to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals since 1983 Monday when she came through an epic three-set slugfest against 21st seed Ekaterina Makarova.

The unseeded Konta, ranked 47 in the world, ground down the Russian 4-6, 6-4, 8-6 in three hours, four minutes on Margaret Court Arena and will face either American Madison Keys or Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai in the last eight.

The draining victory marked the Australian-born 24-year-old's furthest progression at a Grand Slam, and is the best British effort at Melbourne Park since Jo Durie also made the quarters 33 years ago.

The only other British women to get as far were Virginia Wade, who won in 1972, and Sue Barker who made the semis twice.

"Goodness gracious," said Konta, who stunned eighth seed Venus Williams in the first round, as the victory sunk in. "Mentally, emotionally and physically I left it all out there on the court.

"I ran down every ball and kept fighting for every point and fortunately managed to capitalise on some opportunities and close it out on the end."

Konta had beaten the left-hander during their only previous meeting, at Eastbourne last year, and she made it two-out-of-two as she outlasted the Russian, a semi-finalist last year.

It was an impressive win against a player who has always enjoyed Melbourne Park, making the fourth round or better on her last six outings, including quarter-finals in 2012 and 2013.

The match was heavy-hitting from the word go, with little between the two players.

But it was Konta who bagged the first break, with Makarova smacking a forehand into the net to hand the Brit a 2-1 advantage.

She held for 3-1 but the Russian then reeled off three games in a row as the pressure built on Konta, who couldn't prevent the set going the Russian's way.

Undeterred, Konta attacked the Makarova serve and went 1-0 up on a break at the start of the second set as the Russian screamed at herself.

There were no easy points and both women fought grimly, but it was Konta who held her nerve, aided by some wild Makarova forehands, to close out the second set and take it to a third.

After holding serve in a 16-minute opening game, the Russian called for the trainer for treatment to her right foot, seemingly because of blisters.

But she seemed untroubled and the pair kept plugging away, looking for an opening in a delicately poised encounter.

It went with serve until Konta finally earned a break in game nine. She served for the match but couldn't finish it off and Makarova struck back to keep her hopes alive.

The Briton scored another break as the clock approached the three-hour mark and this time she made no mistake, serving out for a memorable win, throwing her racquet to the ground in relief.

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