Long journey paying dividends as history-maker Konta gets ready for battle of underdogs
Konta became the first British female to reach the last eight of a grand slam since 1984 after she edged an enthralling contest against Ekaterina Makarova 4-6 6-4 8-6.
The victory marks Konta’s best performance at a major tournament, beating her fourth round achievement at the US Open last year, and means Britain have a quarter-finalist in the men’s and women’s draw for the first time since 1977.
Konta, ranked 47th, is closing in on the top 30 and she will meet Chinese qualifier Shuai Zhang in a battle of the underdogs for a place in the last four.
“This journey started when I was about eight years old, so we’re coming up to 18 years now,” said Konta, who was born in Sydney to Hungarian parents – dad Gabor a hotelier and mum Gabriella a dentist.
“I’ve always said I do not believe in a kind of light-switch moment. Everything happens for a reason. My journey has been the way it has been for a reason. That’s to accumulate the experiences that I’ve had.
“I cannot give you a moment where I said, ‘oh yeah, that’s where it started’, because it’s been ongoing ever since I started playing.”
Konta had to come from behind in a nail-biting baseline battle on Margaret Court Arena, which lasted three hours and four minutes – the second longest women’s match so far.
It could have been settled sooner had Konta not been broken when serving for the match at 5-4 but she held her nerve at the second time of asking before flinging her racket into the air in celebration.
“It was definitely one of the more spectacular matches I’ve played,” said Konta. “There have been a few. I still remember a junior match I played and I lost 12-10 in the third. That’s definitely still in my mind.
“In my adult career, it was one of the memorable ones.”
Konta, who moved to England and based herself in Eastbourne in 2005, aged 14 and qualified as a British citizen in May, 2012, faces Zhang, ranked 133rd and an even less expected quarter-finalist having arrived in Melbourne on the back of 14 consecutive first round exits in grand slams.
Zhang, however, added American Madison Keys to her list of scalps, which also includes second seed Simona Halep and France’s Alize Cornet.
“I think Shuai Zhang is actually on a bit more of an incredible journey than myself,” said Konta.
“She won her first main draw match at a slam. I think that’s an incredibly special moment.
“I’ve played Zhang a couple of times. Actually, both times were very good matches.
“We’re talking about a quarter-final of a grand slam, so whoever I’m going to play it’s going to be an incredibly good player.
“Right now I’m just looking forward to just recovering well and having a good night’s rest.”
Andy Murray beats Australia’s Bernard Tomic in straight sets: Page 19.