There is simply no stopping Johanna Konta, not this summer. Britain’s No 2 did the unthinkable yesterday, unseating Garbine Muguruza, the Wimbledon runner-up and world No 9, to reach the third round of the US Open, her bes-ever result at a Grand Slam tournament.
It was the finest result by a British female player since Laura Robson beat Li Na, then the world No 9, in New York back in 2012 bu,t just to add an extra layer of icing to her stunning 7-6, 6-7, 6-2 win, it was the longest women’s match at the Open since the tiebreak was introduced in 1970. For three hours and 23 minutes in the suffocating 32-degree heat, she was just too good, too calm and too precise for Muguruza as she extended her current winning streak to 15 consecutive matches.
I’m no Serena Williams. I’m just happy to still be in the tournamentJohanna Konta
Delighted, exhausted but still focused and keeping everything in perspective, Konta was enjoying the moment but preparing for Andrea Petkovic, the No 18 seed, tomorrow.
“Right now I’m just in the third round and I’m playing against another incredibly tough player, Petkovic,” Konta said. “I’m focusing on that match, and we will see how that goes. Every day is a new day. Every opponent is a new opponent. Trust me, they don’t give a crap how many matches I have won. So every time I step out on to the court, I’m competing against other players who want to win just as much as I do and deserve to win just as much as I do. I don’t deserve it any more than they do. It really is just a battle.
“I am going to lose sooner or later. I’m not invincible. I’m no Serena Williams. I’m just honestly happy to be still in this tournament and get another opportunity to compete.”
Now working with a sports psychologist to help her calm her nerves, Konta was the coolest woman in Flushing Meadows as she pulled off her remarkable win. She was focused, confident and seemingly without fear. From first ball to last, she was playing the tennis of her life: fighting in every rally, never letting go of a point and pasting the lines to leave Muguruza to fume and mutter.
“At the start, I think it was a mental state,” she explained. “To finish off, it was more like I had no energy to do anything else.
“But if I’m not going to stay calm mentally, if I’m not going to stay focused, then I’m not going to give myself the best chance of beating some of the best players in the world.
“Muguruza didn’t come out playing her best tennis, but she always comes out being the most competitive as possible, and that’s why she is top ten in the world and a Wimbledon finalist. I’m just happy that I was able to come through.”
Officially, the temperature was a blistering 32 degrees, but on the court it would have been a good ten degrees warmer than that. Then there was the 45 per cent humidity. Over on the Grandstand Court, Jack Sock keeled over with full body cramps but Konta seemed untroubled. She has been winning since she left Wimbledon and no one and nothing was going to stop her yesterday.
Even in the second set tiebreak when Muguruza had lifted her game a notch or two, Konta did not waver. When the umpire, Carrie Hinueber, effectively cost her the set by denying her the chance to replay a contested point, Konta just got on with the business of winning.
Serving at 5-3 down, Konta believed she had been distracted by a late call from the line judge behind her. Hinueber thought differently and decreed that the call had been made in a timely fashion and that Britain’s No 2 had simply missed her shot. Awarding the point to Muguruza, she gave the Spaniard two set points and moments later, the set had slipped from Konta’s grasp. But there was no hint of a letdown or a meltdown – Konta coolly left the court to change her clothes, came back a few minutes later and ran away with the deciding set.
“Obviously I had my own opinion of the decision, but you’re always going to have tense moments and tense times of the match,” Konta said calmly. “Luck is always going to come and go. It’s always at the discretion of the umpire, and you have to take it for what it is. I’m just happy that I was able to come back after losing that second set and just stay strong and keep fighting and just refocus.”
With her focus now fixed firmly on Petkovic, that winning run could be up to No 16 come tomorrow night.