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Johanna Konta looks to sparkling future after exit

By Paul Newman

Published 29/01/2016

That hurt: Johanna Konta suffers pain of defeat against Angelique Kerber in Australian Open semi-final in Melbourne
That hurt: Johanna Konta suffers pain of defeat against Angelique Kerber in Australian Open semi-final in Melbourne

Johanna Konta admitted her lack of experience proved crucial as the Australian Open underdog lost in straights sets to Angelique Kerber.

Konta was bidding to become the first female British grand slam finalist since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon 39 years ago but her hopes were dashed as Kerber sealed a 7-5 6-2 semi-final victory.

This was the first year Konta had ever made it into the Australian Open main draw, let alone the semis, as 12 months ago she lost in the first round of qualifying.

Kerber is more established, having made two grand slam semi-finals and two quarter-finals before, while also finishing in the world's top 10 in each year since 2012.

"She definitely played with that little bit more experience than I did," Konta said.

"She's an incredibly tough player. I think she's one of the, if not the, most consistent player on the tour and that's no secret.

"She really makes every single ball possible and makes you work for every single point.

"But I really enjoyed my experience out there. I'm really looking forward to the chance of playing her again soon."

Konta, the self-professed "female Jason Bourne", has tackled many a foreign foe in recent months and, despite this defeat, takes only positives from a glorious tournament, which will see her break the world's top 30 and likely be seeded at the French Open.

It seems a world away from last year when Konta was ranked 141st in the world and was stewing over defeat to China's world number 132 Lin Zhu in qualification.

"I don't feel very different," Konta said. "Both times I was looking forward to going home to see my family.

"I go home to see my parents, spend some time in my own bed. That stays the same.

"It depends what you view as disappointment. I don't live my life and feel my happiness or joy on my wins and losses."

Konta had been hoping to extend Britain's excellent showing at the first grand slam of the year, with Andy Murray playing Milos Raonic today in the semi-finals of the singles and Jamie Murray making it through to the doubles final alongside Brazilian Bruno Soares.

The Sydney-born 24-year-old had not had much contact with the Murray brothers but their mother Judy, who is also Fed Cup captain, had postponed a flight home to stay and support.

"She was constantly messaging me, so I saw her more often," Konta said.

"She kept it very simple. She just said to really enjoy the moment, enjoy being here, enjoy the battle, things like that."

Both players were unexpected semi-finalists, Kerber after knocking out Victoria Azarenka in the last eight, and it was no surprise that each wavered when the pressure moments arrived.

Konta looked nervous early on when she trailed 3-0 and despite stringing together four games in a row, Kerber broke again at 5-5 and served out.

The German was ultimately too consistent, making just 11 unforced errors to Konta's 36, and she ran away with the contest during a convincing second set.

Asked what she was thinking at 3-0 down, Konta said: "Oh my God, please get on the board."

She added: "I played against a better player who earned her right into a slam final. She played a really good match."

In tomorrow's final, Kerber will face Serena Williams, who insists she is blocking out all thoughts of equalling Steffi Graf's grand slam record.

Victory against Kerber would draw Williams level with Graf's Open-era best 22 major titles while taking her own tally of Melbourne triumphs to five.

She is currently third in the all-time list but remains short of Australian Margaret Court, who is out in front on 24.

"I definitely block it out," Williams said. "I was one off last year too. If I don't win on Saturday, I'll still be one off. It took me forever to get to 18. I was so stressed out. I don't want to relive that at all."

Williams beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0 6-4 in yesterday's semi-final.

Belfast Telegraph

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