MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Britain’s Johanna Konta has learned much from matches against grand slam champions and former world number ones over the last 18 months but on Wednesday her education will be complete when she faces Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarter-finals.
While Konta has never played the American great, who is bidding to win a record 23rd grand slam title in the professional era, the 25-year-old knows exactly what Williams has in store for her on Rod Laver Arena.
“I don’t think Serena Williams needs an introduction with everything that she’s achieved in this sport,” Konta said.
“But I have played, over the last year and a half, quite a
few grand slam champions and some former world number ones. So I have accumulated, I think — I have prepared myself as much as possible to play a competitor like Serena.”
Konta’s rise to ninth in the world, sparked by a run to last year’s semi-finals at Melbourne Park, has not gone unnoticed by her quarter-final opponent.
“I have watched her game a lot. She’s been doing really, really well,” Williams said. “She has a very attacking game. I know her game pretty well. I look forward to it.”
The other quarter-final pitches fifth seed and U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who is having a career renaissance at Melbourne Park after making a comeback.
“I still wanted to play on a stage like this, on a full court like this, she said. “Come out, play, have these wins, be in a quarter-final of a slam, have a chance to fight for a semi-final. Those are incredible moments.”
In the remaining men’s quarter-finals, David Goffin and 15th seed Grigor Dimitrov will be the last match on the main court before the evening session.
Having spent some of the off-season practicing together, Dimitrov knows what to expect from the 11th-seeded Belgian.
“He’s very dangerous all over the court,” the Bulgarian said. “He can hit quite a few shots, moves well on the court, reads the game well. It’s going to be a tough match.”
Milos Raonic, the highest remaining men’s seed following the exits of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, wraps up the quarter-finals against a resurgent Rafa Nadal.
The Canadian is hoping to have shaken off the effects of flu by the time the match comes around.
“Still don’t necessarily feel at full capacity but I have energy now. I can go about my days normally,” the third seed told reporters. “With the way things are going, getting better and better, I can’t imagine myself struggling.”
Writing by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford