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Johanna Konta sets up showdown with Serena Williams in Australian Open quarter-finals

The Independent logo The Independent 23-01-2017 Tom Allnutt
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Britain's Johanna Konta earned an Australian Open showdown with Serena Williams by easing past Russian Ekaterina Makarova to reach the quarter-finals.

Konta needed three sets to overcome Makarova here last year but this was far more straight-forward as the British number one sailed through 6-1 6-4 in 69 minutes.

She will now face Williams, the 22-time grand slam champion, for a place in the last four.

Williams had just beaten Babora Strycova on Rod Laver Arena when Konta walked out on Margaret Court and if the American was watching her next opponent, she will surely have been mightily impressed.

Konta sealed the first set in just 24 minutes and despite a temporary wobble in the second never looked like losing to Makarova, an accomplished opponent under-ranked due to injuries at 34 in the world.

"At the start I played at a higher level than she did but she was able to pull herself back into the match and made it very difficult for me in the second," Konta said on court afterwards.

"She started playing some incredible tennis so I just tried to continue trusting myself and enjoying playing out here and being okay if we stayed another three hours like last year."

On facing Williams, Konta said: "That's going to be an incredible experience for me, she's one of the few players still playing that I watched growing up as a girl and when I was wanting to be a professional tennis player.

"It's an incredible honour and I can't wait to share a court with her. Once on court against anyone, everyone is out there to compete and hopefully walk off the winner but in terms of enjoying the opportunity against someone like Serena, I will cherish every single minute out there."

If it was a boxing match, this would be the bout fans were crying out for; Williams, the favourite and most prestigious figure in the draw, against Konta, the form player and riding the crest of a wave.

Neither have dropped a set so far and while Williams will be the more fancied to progress, Konta has beaten five out of her last six top-10 opponents and carries enough power to cause the 35-year-old problems.

When Konta beat Makarova 4-6 6-4 8-6 last year at this same stage and on the very same court she became Britain's first female grand slam quarter-finalist since Jo Durie in 1984.

But it is a mark of how far she has come that 12 months later this victory felt almost routine. The world number nine remains Britain's only player left in the singles draw, following the exits of Andy Murray and Dan Evans on Sunday.

She exploded out of the blocks and into a 3-0 lead, with Makarova's dejection compounded by two failed reviews, each landing a whisker in her opponent's favour.

When another Konta serve sailed past her left shoulder, the Russian turned in disgust but in truth, the Briton was just too good, serving out with her fifth ace of the match before much of the crowd had even taken their seats.

Makarova is not a two-time grand slam semi-finalist for nothing, however, and her crashing forehand began to find its range in the second.

She moved 4-1 clear but Konta came again, breaking twice to lead 5-4 and serve for the match.

Makarova put up some late resistance but Konta would not be denied, converting her second match point when a final forehand flew long.

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