French Open 2019: Konta runs into semi-finals with straight-sets win over Stephens
Johanna Konta kept her game in good control to inch closer to history at the French Open on Tuesday afternoon. The British number one added a third successive win over Sloane Stephens, outscoring her in straight sets with winners and aces assisting in the 6-1, 6-4 victory on Philippe Chatrier Court at Roland Garros.
Konta makes history with straight-sets win
This is the first time since 1983 that a British woman has made the semi-finals in Paris, marking the third major where Konta has also advanced into the last four.
The quarter-finals for both players meant a lot was on the line, not only for their head-to-head series but the next step in the tournament. With a third matchup this season, Konta was either going to climb higher than any other British woman in 26 years, or allow Stephens to get the jump on her, tightening her grip in a winnable encounter.
Last year's finalist took down Garbine Muguruza with force, while Konta added a fourth win against Donna Vekic. Both continued to vie for history in Paris, looking to etch their names deeper into the tournament itself.
The opening game was highly contested, as the seventh seed fought for the break opportunity against Konta. They went eight minutes and more than a few breaks before the game went the way of Jo, before Stephens produced a better hold of serve in the second after drawing errors from the 26th seed.
Konta brushed off any early nerves to cleanly get her first game through, rushing it in the third game to take a slender but nonetheless important lead. Soon afterwards, she consolidated her hold with a break while Sloane was struggling to settle.
4-1 quickly turned into a 5-1 lead and with two set points, Konta closed out the first set in 32 minutes. Stephens' nine unforced errors didn't seem like much but with Konta continuing to attack her second serve and return game, while producing four aces and 12 winners herself, the Brit was firmly in control and the match was quickly getting away from the American.
Sloane responds with purpose in second set
She aimed to get the ball rolling better in the second, but errors again helped Konta force deuce. She let the 26-year-old continue her course that resulted in a break before consolidating it with a service hold. As Konta opened a gap once more, Stephens knew that she couldn't afford to let the Brit get away from her. Applying plenty of effort to improve her first serve, the seventh seed clinched an important service game to reiterate her competitive spirit and prove she wasn't going down without a fight.
Konta could see the increase in Sloane's offense and locked down the serve in the fourth, keeping her at bay momentarily. She could only watch as the American scored a well-played fifth game to shut her down again and maintain a one-game gap.
Konta's tactics increased in response to Stephens' improvements, though Sloane continued to battle away during the set - hoping her opponent would falter. She didn't do so through the ninth, recording an ace before drawing an error from the Brit to put her within reach of a potential tie.
Konta was in no mood to do that and showed her will to finish the match, recording a fifth ace on a cross-court shot. Despite committing her second double fault, another Stephens error gifted her two match points.
On her second serve, the 28-year-old watched a short rally end with the American placing the ball well on the line. When the umpire came down to look at the shot though, she saw the mark was slightly wide - handing Konta the victory in one hour and eleven minutes.
After the match, Konta had this to say during her on-court interview:
"This was my first match on Chatrier, competing against one of the best players in the world and playing at the level that I did. I feel very proud of myself and just really happy that I got to enjoy this moment, pleased to have gone through."
She'll be eager to earn a berth in Saturday's final, where she takes on the winner between Petra Martic and teen phenom Marketa Vondrousova on Thursday.