JOHANNA Konta’s Australian Open dream finally came to an end as the world number 47 lost in straight sets to Germany’s 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 by a clinical Kerber, who sealed a 7-5 6-2 victory.
Johanna had a great two weeks, and she has a great future. She is a tough opponent and will win many, many tournaments in the futureAngelique Kerber
Kerber will now face world number one Serena Williams in Saturday’s showpiece, as the American chases a record-equalling 22nd grand slam title.
The German said she had “one leg on the plane home” when match point down against Japan’s Misaki Doi in the opening round, but the world number six was too strong here and deservedly goes through to her first major final.
“It’s a really special moment to reach the final for the first time,” Kerber said.
“I gave everything on court. Johanna had a great two weeks, and she has a great future.
“She is a tough opponent and will win many, many tournaments in the future for sure.”
Konta, the self-professed “female Jason Bourne”, has tackled many a foreign foe in recent months and, despite this defeat, she takes only positives from a glorious tournament, which will see her break the world’s top 30 and be seeded at the French Open.
Both players were unexpected semi-finalists, Kerber after knocking out Victoria Azarenka in the last eight, and it was no surprise that each faltered when the pressure moments arrived.
Kerber, however, was ultimately too consistent from the back, making just 11 unforced errors to Konta’s 36, and she ran away with the contest during a convincing second set.
Konta’s steady nerves have been the foundation to her remarkable rise in the last six months but they seemed to desert her early on as she blazed a series of straightforward shots long and struggled for her usual rhythm.
The local crowd were urging on the Sydney-born 24-year-old but Kerber, herself known to tense up on the big occasion, had to do fairly little for two quick-fire breaks as the German raced into a 3-0 lead.
Konta’s radar did gradually find focus and she took one break back in the fourth game, blasting away a smash that almost exhaled with relief.
Holding with a solid service game, which included her 21st ace for the tournament, there was suddenly a match on as Konta grew in confidence and Kerber tightened up.
One punter feigned his best British accent, shouting ‘jolly good show!’ from the stands - and it was, as Konta broke again and held to lead 4-3.
The set was far from done yet, however, and matters came to a head at 5-5 as a netted drive volley and then double fault cost Konta the break as Kerber served for the set.
There was a five minute changeover while the ball-kids wiped the court dry of a few spots of rain but the delay made no odds to Kerber, who served out to love to take the set in 49 minutes.
When Kerber broke again in the opening game of the second, Konta let her frustration show, slamming a ball into the court, and soon after the crowd expressed their own dismay when a challenge showed the Briton’s shot out by a hair’s breadth.
Down 3-1, Konta again had to come from behind, but Kerber seemed liberated by her advantage and was striking the ball cleaner than ever.
A backhand into the net made it 4-1 before she held to 15 to go four games clear and force Konta to serve to stay in the tournament.
She did, but the respite proved only temporary, as a backhand long saw Kerber drop her racket to the ground in celebration of victory.
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