Johanna Konta explains her improvement as Annabel Croft assesses her French Open chances

Kevin Palmer
A happy Johanna Konta

Johanna Konta has saluted her coach Dimitri Zavialoff for the improvements she has made on clay, after she made it through to the French Open quarter-finals for the first time, writes Kevin Palmer.

Konta cruised into the last eight with a comprehensive win over Croatia’s Donna Vekic, before telling Eurosport about her rise back to the top of the game after a slide in 2018.

“Over the last few months I’ve been playing at a better and better level,” she stated.

“More than anything I feel like I’m building on each match that I’m playing and each day I get to spend out on court I feel like I’m adding to how I want to be playing. I’m really pleased to have made it this far and I’ll be working hard to get to the very end.

“A lot of the work I’m doing does translate to all surfaces but what clay requires is for you to play the game more than other surfaces because you have more time. With the things that we are doing that’s a big part of it – to give myself the space and the freedom to play out there – to create the points the way I want to, to trust what I do out there because I’ve got a lot of goods things to do and Dimitri has been really great in giving me the space to express myself out on court.

“I’ve got a good group of people around me, some here and some at home, and more than anything once I’m finished here I just look to get out of here and rest and take a step back. I’m staying in an apartment here which gives me that separation, which is nice. I’m doing some cooking, nothing like to the extent to which I do at home, it’s always easier to cook in your own kitchen!”

“I think I’m enjoying the game more now and seeing it for what it is. I think when you are younger it’s hard to disassociate yourself with it, and not be too emotional about It, more than anything. I’m definitely really grateful for what the game is.”

Eurosport expert Annabel Croft believes Konta is in the best form of her career, as she prepares for a quarter-final clash with Sloane Stephens.

Sloane Stephens smiling PA

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen her play this well before to be honest, particularly on a clay court,” said Croft of Konta. “It’s back to the sort of form that saw her reach the semi-finals in Australia and Wimbledon but I think her level is up a couple of notches from there.

“Everything is so clean and authoritative but she knows exactly what she wants to do and she’s looking for open spaces all the time. But it’s the way the ball is coming off the racket – it’s got weight on it, it’s got cover and spin, which controls the ball, and her movement is very good.

“Vekic tried a couple of drop shots but Konta was way too quick and she’s really moving so well around the court. For me it’s after the serve – this is where she does most of her damage. Just striking the ball so cleanly and into the corners every single time.

“She likes to take time away from opponents and she’s doing it with every mid-court ball and executing. You can’t underestimate the trick conditions here and the way she is executing her shots I think she’s playing the best of any players I’ve seen at Roland-Garros because of her efficiency.

“I don’t want to get too over-excited about it but she’s so efficient, there are very few dips, and in the last two matches she’s played the players can’t match her and don’t know what to do tactically against her.”

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