Johanna Konta became the first British player in 32 years to break into the WTA top-10 after reaching the Beijing final with a hard-fought 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4 victory over Madison Keys Saturday.
The 25-year-old was ranked as low as 147 in the world just 16 months ago but has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past year to become the first British woman in the top-10 since Jo Durie in 1984.
“I know I’ve achieved something good whenever I’m mentioned in the same sentence as her,” Konta said of Durie yesterday at the China Open.
The 56-year-old Durie sent out a tweet to congratulate Konta.
Konta claimed her seventh victory of the season over a top-10 opponent when she took out the ninth-ranked Keys in a high-quality affair that lasted two hours and 35 minutes.
The Sydney-born Brit faces third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska in Sunday’s final where she hopes to capture her second title of the year and first at a Premier Mandatory event.
While hitting the top-10 milestone is a proud achievement for Konta, she insists she is more focused on trying to win today’s final rather than celebrating her rise in the rankings.
“It’s pretty cool. But, yeah – actually I don’t know. I don’t know. I think because I’m so immersed in this tournament still, it’s obviously something that’s really humbling and really nice to hear. But, you know, I work my hardest to be able to go into the latter stages of every tournament I play,” said Konta, who is just the fourth British woman to be ranked in the top-10, ever since the ranking system was introduced in 1975.
“To be able to play on the Sunday here, I think that’s what I’m most looking forward to. Yeah, really giving my best tomorrow and see where that takes me.”
There was a lot on the line for both Konta and Keys in yesterday’s semi-final with both of them looking to lock down a qualification spot in the WTA Finals in Singapore – the elite season finale where the year’s top eight players will compete.
Keys has moved up to the No7 spot in the Road to Singapore leaderboard while Konta has rocketed up three spots to the No8 position by virtue of reaching the Beijing final. She could move up to No6 in the race should she triumph today.
On her part, Keys rued her missed opportunities and has accepted a wildcard into the Linz tournament to try and secure qualification for Singapore. Keys committed 47 unforced errors against Konta, a day after she ended Petra Kvitova’s eight-match winning streak with a dazzling performance.
“I don’t think I played overly well today. I think I had a lot of chances. I don’t think I converted well. You know, all props to her. She played well. She made it tough to get into the match,” said Keys of Konta’s performance.
Later in the day, Radwanska moved into the final with a 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory against Ukrainian No16 seed Elina Svitolina, who had upset world No1 Angelique Kerber earlier in the week.
Radwanska is gunning for a third career Premier Mandatory title having previously won Beijing in 2011 and Miami in 2012.
The 27-year-old Pole has already qualified to Singapore, where she is the defending champion.
Radwanska beat Konta in their only previous meeting, in Cincinnati two months ago, but it was a tough three-setter.
“She’s really playing fast from the bounce. You don’t have much time. Everything is going pretty much fast and flat. She’s not giving any time to think or run. Very aggressive player with really good serve,” said Radwanska.