Konta returns Britain to women's grand slam semis

MELBOURNE: Johanna Konta ground down Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai 6-4 6-1 at the Australian Open on Wednesday to become the first British woman to reach the semi-finals of a grand slam in over 30 years.

Hours later, Andy Murray capped a banner day for Britain as he reached the semi-finals of the men's tournament with a four-set victory over David Ferrer.

Murray's win ensured Britain have two representatives in the last four of a grand slam for the first time since 1977.

The 47th-ranked Konta will seek to continue her fairytale run on Thursday when she meets German seventh seed Angelique Kerber for a place in the title-decider.

Konta's rise has been little short of extraordinary, with her last trip to Melbourne Park cut short with a humbling exit at qualifying when ranked 147th in the world.

Twelve months on, the Sydney-born 24-year-old has emulated Eugenie Bouchard's breathtaking run at the 2014 tournament by reaching the last four on her main draw debut at Melbourne Park.

"I'm just so happy that I'm enjoying what I'm doing. That is me living my dream," a beaming Konta told reporters after fending off Zhang in an hour and 23 minutes.

"When I was a little girl I dreamt of winning grand slams and being number one in the world. That dream stays the same I think as long as you're doing the career that you're on."

The last British woman to make a grand slam semi-final was Jo Durie at the 1983 U.S. Open, while the last finalist was the 1977 Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade.

Konta will bid to become the first British woman to reach the Australian Open final since Wade's run to the 1972 title.

Although Konta has reached lofty heights for British tennis, the quarter-final against Zhang failed to soar quite so high.

Both players battled nerves and the Chinese qualifier came into the match fatigued after playing seven straight matches.

Konta steadied first and rushed to a 5-2 lead before an attack of nerves nearly brought her undone.

The Eastbourne resident crumbled with two double-faults when serving for the set and allowed Zhang to claw back to 5-4.

As the first woman qualifier to reach the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park in nearly three decades, Zhang was never going to concede lightly.

She saved five set points in an epic game before Konta ended the argument with a pair of booming first serves.

The pair traded service breaks early in the second set before Konta roared to a 5-1 lead.

Although struggling to muster the energy, Zhang battled to the end, saving two match points.

But she was powerless to save the third when Konta hammered a shot into an obliging net-cord that gave the Chinese no chance.

"Yeah, it was a bit anti-climactic, wasn't it?" Konta laughed. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change it."

With her semi-finals appearance set to raise British hopes of a first female grand slam champion in nearly 40 years, Konta said she was not feeling any pressure.

"No, but the UK is a number of thousands of miles away and a completely different time zone, which in this case it might be quite nice."