NEW YORK, NY, USA – The express progress of No.16 seed Johanna Konta at the US Open continued as she marched into the second week with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Zhang Shuai, winning the third-round encounter in 72 minutes.
Having spent less than an hour on court on Thursday as she defeated Margarita Gasparyan for the loss of just a single game, she was equally efficient against the No.33 seed, who had spent close to two and a half hours dispatching Ekaterina Alexandrova in three sets a day earlier.
Holding a 4-1 career head-to-head record against her opponent before the action began, Konta stretched her winning streak against the Chinese to four, each of which she has claimed in straight sets.
"There was nothing easy about that match. I had to stay present, at any point it could have changed and that’s what you have to be prepared for," she said after an impressively consistent performance that saw her strike a stunning 34 winners to just 18 unforced errors.
"I was prepared to adapt whenever I needed to. I thought I just dealt with the challenges well today of the opponent I faced and also the conditions."
On a breezy day, Konta hit a superb array of unreturnable shots and showed variety in her game that her 30-year-old opponent, who looked lackluster throughout, could not match.
The British No.1 set her standard in the very first rally, which last 14 strokes and was ended by being crushed into the opposite court from the racquet of the 28-year-old. She would go on to hit five winners in the opening game, in which she sealed a break with a massive backhand winner down the line off a decent second serve.
Zhang had been served notice and spent much of the opening set simply seeking to hang on against a player towards the peak of her powers.
The vital second break arrived to push Konta into a 5-2 lead, but having lost only one point of serve to that stage, she twice found herself attempting to stave off a break. True to form, she did so with a couple of winners and the set was eventually sealed when Zhang woefully miscued a groundstroke.
Having hit 18 winners in the first set to just eight unforced errors, the WTA World No.16 did not miss a beat at the start of the second, working herself clear with more impressive hitting from the back of the court.
Although she missed three chances to break in the fifth game, then another one in the seventh, she remained utterly reliable with the balls in hand, not giving up a single point in any of her first three service games of the set.
The French Open semifinalist finished with a flourish, crushing two superb winners as she sealed the match by breaching Zhang’s delivery for a second time in the set.
"I just played the match well," she said in her final assessment of a job well done. "I thought I gave enough variation, I thought I just asked enough good questions."
Karolina Pliskova lies in wait for Konta in what will be her third visit to the fourth round at Flushing Meadows. She has never gone further and will aim to end that jinx against the big-hitting Czech.