Zhang's Australian Open dream run ended by unseeded Konta

2016-01-27 17:16:32 | From:http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-01/27/c_135049948.htm

MELBOURNE, Jan. 27, 2016 (Xinhua) -- China's Zhang Shuai competes against Johanna Konta of Great Britain during the quarterfinal of women's singles at the Australian Open Tennis Championships in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 27, 2016. Zhang Shuai lost the match 4-6, 1-6. (Xinhua/Bai Xue)

By Callum Godde

MELBOURNE, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai's dream run at the Australian Open has come to an abrupt end, losing to unseeded Englishwoman Johanna Konta in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

The 26-year-old couldn't muster a ninth straight win at this year's Open, with Konta taking advantage of her tiring opponent to win 6-4, 6-1.

Konta raced two breaks to the good in the opening set. Zhang mounted a comeback, pulling a break back but not the other.

The world No. 47 coasted from then on, only dropping one game in the second set on her way to becoming the first British woman to make a Grand Slam semi-final since 1983.

After waiting eight years for a maiden win in the main draw of a Grand Slam, Zhang managed four in the space of 10 days.

But her incredible run to the latter stages of the tournament ran out of steam on Wednesday as she had no answer for Konta - another unheralded player to come form the clouds to challenge for this year's title.

Despite winning in straight sets, the Australian-born 24-year-old said she never felt comfortable against Zhang.

"(Zhang) definitely didn't make it easy for me today," Konta said.

"Every time I got a little ahead (on the scoreboard) she was constantly there."

Understandably, after playing an extra three matches than Konta in order to qualify, Zhang looked drained, only managing to produce 12 winners throughout the match.

While it means China no longer has a representative in the women's single draw, Chinese pairing Xu Yifan and Zheng Saisai will play later Wednesday for the chance to playoff in the double's final.

In the earlier quarter-final, Konta's semi-final opponent Angelique Kerber stunned dual Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in straight sets.

Despite her superior ranking, the seventh seeded Kerber went into the game as a heavy underdog against Azarenka.

But Kerber, who had never beaten the 14th-seed in their six previous meetings, out-hit the Belarusian winning 6-3, 7-5 in an hour and 45 minutes.

"I can't actually describe it (winning) in words, I was 0-6 before I came on court," the German said court-side.

"I was saying to myself to play like I do on the practice courts and that's what I did.

"I was trying to serve good, to move good and to be more aggressive than the last times I played her."

The win returns the 28-year-old, a pupil of 22-time Grand Slam winner Steffi Graf, to the semi-finals of a major championship for the first time since the 2011 U.S. Open.

The flashy lefty blasted 31 winners past Azarenka to end the 26-year-old's hopes of claiming a third title at Melbourne Park.

The 14th seeded Belarusian - undefeated in 2016, until today's shock loss - was the clear front-runner to challenge world No. 1 Serena Williams for the crown after her stellar start to this year.

But in a chaotic year of upsets in the women's draw, Kerber pulled off another one.

Sensing the game was slipping away from her, Azarenka rallied to capture the double break and lead 5-2 in the second set.

But nerves got the better of Belarusian, who lost the next five games to bow out of the Open in inglorious fashion.

"It was an incredible feeling," Kerber said of the second-set fightback.

"I was more aggressive when it was 2-5, I was telling myself to forget the score, to just play my best," she said.

"It's my first time to the semi-finals here."

Since fighting off a match point againstJapan's Misaki Doi in the first round of the tournament, Kerber has not dropped a set on her way to the last four.

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