Unseeded Johanna Konta has ended the fairytale Australian Open run of Chinese qualifier Zhang Shaui to become the first British woman to reach a grand slam semi-final in 33 years.
Sydney-born Konta defeated Zhang 6-4 6-1 in Wednesday’s quarter-finals and will play free-hitting German Angelique Kerber on Thursday for a place in the title match on her main-draw debut at Melbourne Park.
Not since Jo Durie at the 1983 US Open has a Brit made the last four at a women’s major.
But 24-year-old Konta – born at Royal North Shore Hospital and raised on Sydney’s northern beaches until moving to Europe at 14 – now has a golden opportunity to go even further.
Seventh-seeded Kerber earlier sent two-time champion Victoria Azarenka packing in a 6-3 7-5 boilover at Rod Laver Arena.
Kerber’s victory reversed a run of six losses to Azarenka, who had loomed as Serena Williams’s greatest title threat after marching through her first nine matches in 2016 without dropping a set.
“I can’t actually describe it in words. I mean, I was zero from six before I came to court,” Kerber said.
“I was just saying play like you do on the practice courts and just go for it, just believe that you can beat her and I’m so, so happy that I beat her for the first time.
“I was trying to serve very good from the first point and be more aggressive than I have the last few times I played her.
“It’s just an amazing feeling to be in the semi-finals here for the first time.”
While seeded higher than Azarenka – who spiralled down the rankings during an injury-plagued 2014 season – Kerber was a big underdog on Wednesday after being crushed by the former world No.1 in the Brisbane final earlier this month.
But Kerber, who survived a match point in her opener against Masaki Doi, set the tone by breaking Azarenka in the opening game.
Kerber rifled a running forehand pass to claim the double break, surging to a 4-0 lead before Azarenka managed to get on the scoreboard.
But once she did, Azarenka was hard to stop.
The Belarusian broke Kerber for the first time and edged back to 4-3 as the German began to doubt.
In a telling service hold, the seventh seed dug in to fend off four break points to move to 5-3.
Azarenka quickly fell love-40 behind in the next game and saved two set points but not a third as Kerber converted early dominance to have the two-time champion under the pump for the first time all summer.
Having conceded only 11 games in her opening four matches, suddenly Azarenka had dropped her first set of the year.
She responded in style, breaking Kerber in the opening game of the second set to seize back the momentum and powering to a 5-2, 40-0 lead.
Alas, the 14th seed blew five set points as the free-wheeling German roared back to reel off five straight games to take the set and the match after one hour and 45 minutes.