Angelique Kerber and Johanna Konta will be going head-to-head for the first time in their careers when they collide in an unexpected Australian Open semifinal on Thursday. Konta’s presence, of course, is especially stunning. At No. 47 in the world, the 24-year-old is unseeded Down Under. But that is unlikely to be the case at any other slam this season thanks to a run to her first-ever major semifinal. In fact, Konta had never even been past the fourth round of a major prior to this fortnight and she had advanced out of the second round only once (2015 U.S. Open). She had also never appeared in the main draw of the Aussie Open. But Konta is a household name in Melbourne now following victories over Venus Williams, Saisai Zheng, Denisa Allertova, Ekaterina Makarova, and Shuai Zhang.
What started as a bad draw against Williams turned into a favorable one through the quarterfinals. It’s a tough one now, but perhaps not as tough as many in the tennis world expected. That’s because until Wednesday, the other semifinalist in the bottom half of the bracket was expected to be Victoria Azarenka. But Kerber took out the two-time champion 6-3, 7-5. The sixth-ranked German preceded that triumph by defeating Masaki Doi, Alexandra Dulgheru, Madison Brengle, and Annika Beck. Kerber is 10-1 this season with her only loss coming to Azarenka in the Brisbane title match.
Experience could be a factor in this one, as Konta had won only four Grand Slam matches in her career prior to this fortnight . Kerber, on the other hand, is a four-time major quarterfinalist and now a two-time semifinalist (previously reached the last four at Wimbledon in 2012). Konta handled the quarterfinal pressure well on Wednesday, but a quarterfinal against Zhang is not exactly the same thing as a semifinal against Kerber.
Prediction – Kerber in straight sets