Konta reaches French Open fourth round for first time

Johanna Konta became the first British woman to reach the French Open last 16 since 1983 by thrashing Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova at Roland Garros.

Konta, 28, continued her fine clay-court season with a 6-2 6-1 late-evening victory on the new Court Simonne Mathieu.

Despite suffering sickness this week, the 26th seed broke serve five times to seal an impressive win in 54 minutes.

Konta will play Croatia’s 24th seed Donna Vekic on Sunday.

“I get my attention brought to these different little milestones – it is definitely a nice pat on the back,” she said.

“It’s a nice thing to hear, especially after winning a match.”

The Briton had never won a main-draw match at Roland Garros before this week, but now finds herself with a shot at the quarter-finals.

Anne Hobbs and Jo Durie were the last British women to get to the last 16 in Paris in 1983, Durie going on to reach the semi-finals.

Konta has now reached at least the last 16 in all of the four Grand Slams.

That achievement was secured by a stunning performance against 21-year-old Kuzmova, in which she won 80% of the points behind her first serve and hit 20 winners.

Konta showed exactly why she has surged back up the world rankings after a productive clay-court season which has seen her reach the Morocco Open and Italian Open finals, beating Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and Kiki Bertens along the way in Rome.

The Briton would have expected to meet Bertens again in this match, but that match-up did not materialise after the Dutch fourth seed retired from her second-round match against Kuzmova because of illness.

Konta has also been struggling with sickness in Paris, suffering with a blocked nose and sore throat after Wednesday’s win over Lauren Davis.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is the most human I have felt the last few days,” Konta said.

Konta had needed mental resilience to beat the American – this match was much more straightforward.

Kuzmova, ranked 46th in the world, offered little resistance in a first set where Konta rocked her with some pounding first serves and stunning winners.

Konta broke on her way to winning the opening three games and, after a blip when Kuzmova broke back for 3-2, refocused to rattle off the next three games for the set.

Kuzmova’s woes were summed up by a double fault on set point and she continued to look edgy in the second set.

With Kuzmova’s body language indicating she was there for the taking, Konta continued to pummel her opponent and conceded just nine points as victory was quickly wrapped up.

“I feel pleased with the way I was able to deal with my opponent – I didn’t give her an opportunity to play,” Konta added.

“Being able to do that from the beginning to the end is a nice feeling.”

This was a seriously impressive performance by a woman high on confidence.

Kuzmova is having a fine season but proved erratic in her first appearance in the third round of a Grand Slam.

And that was hardly surprising as Konta served superbly and hit a lot of heavy balls deep in the court to put enormous pressure on the 21-year-old.

A quarter-final opportunity now knocks for either Konta or Donna Vekic.

There is a little to choose between them: they have split their six meetings to date, and Vekic is seeded just three places higher.

A repeat of their Wimbledon second-round match of 2017 would not go amiss. Konta won 10-8 in the final set, as flying ants descended on the All England Club.

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