Tennis

Johanna Konta is in uncharted territory in a grand slam.

Johanna Konta ready to deal with whatever quarter-final clash throws up

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Johanna Konta insists she will be ready for whatever Shuai Zhang throws at her as the British number one gets set for the biggest match of her career at the Australian Open.

Konta, ranked 47th, will play Chinese qualifier Zhang, ranked 133rd, in a battle of the underdogs as they each try to extend their incredible runs in Melbourne through to the semi-finals.

Zhang was playing her first match here 13 days ago as she came through three rounds of qualifying, before knocking out world number two Simona Halep in the main draw.

That was the 27-year-old's first ever grand slam victory out of qualification after she had lost all of her previous 14 first-round matches.

After Halep, Zhang ousted the experienced Alize Cornet, world number 51 Varvara Lepchenko and 15th seed Madison Keys, with Konta now the next upset in her sights.

Zhang's story makes Konta's progress seem altogether predictable but this is also the first time the Briton has ever played in the Australian Open main draw and her debut in a grand slam quarter-final.

Twelve months ago, ranked 141st, she had just lost in qualifying for the third consecutive year.

It means both players will be entering the unknown when they walk out on Rod Laver Arena at 12.30pm local time on Wednesday, and the result may be dictated less by who strikes a stronger ball than who better handles the occasion.

"I think it's about becoming just very strong in that belief, that whatever happens, I can handle it. That's what you keep taking with you," Konta said.

"When you're able to relate back, when you think back to being in certain situations and you have little replays in your mind - I've been here, I've been in a similar situation - I guess you take comfort from that.

"No matter how uncomfortable or how hard or how difficult it gets, the more experiences you've had, the more you realise that practically you're going to survive it.

"You're going to get through it. You're going to handle it. You're going to deal with it the best you can at that given time."

Konta, who was born in Sydney but moved to England aged 14, joins compatriot Andy Murray in the last eight, making it the first time Britain has boasted quarter-finalists in both a men and women's major tournament since the Australian Open in 1977.

The 24-year-old is also the first British female quarter-finalist since 1984, when Jo Durie made the last four at Wimbledon.

"She's so consistent, it's really hard to get through her," said Durie, now a pundit for Eurosport.

"She doesn't miss much but she hits the ball well and has a lovely serve. But mentally she believes in herself now and my goodness what a change."

Konta's results at Melbourne Park could already see her climb into the world's top 32, a position which would see her seeded at the French Open in May.

"She's doing great," Murray said. To back up what she was doing at the end of last year was fantastic.

"She's clearly stayed pretty calm, had some excellent wins here against very tough opponents, high-ranked opponents, and experienced ones. She's doing really, really, really well.

"She's just got to keep doing what she's doing. Keep her head down, keep working hard, stay calm."

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