Aus Open 2017 | Konta prepared for Osaka battle in R2, Watson & Edmund previews
By Ros Satar, in Melbourne
- Johanna Konta  def. Kirsten Flipkens 7-5 6-2
- Faces Naomi Osaka – H2H: Konta leads 1-0
- Heather Watson def. Samantha Stosur 6-3 3-6 6-0
- Faces Jennifer Brady [Q] – First Meeting
- Kyle Edmund def. Santiago Giraldo 6-2 7-5 6-3
- Faces Pablo Carreno Busta  – H2H: Carreno Busta leads 1-0
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Johanna Konta led the British charge on Day Two of the Australian Open making five of the seven through to the second round.
Johanna Konta  def. Kirsten Flipkens 7-5 6-2
This time last year, Johanna Konta faced the press having downed Venus Williams in the first round of the Australian Open, joking that she had only wanted to stay on court for more than an hour. She made her dash all the way through to the semi-finals.
This time around there was understandably more pressure on the Brit to come through a potentially tricky opponent in Kirsten Flipkens. Things looked to be going the Brit’s way with a break for a 4-3 lead, but on her first attempt to serve out for the first set, Flipkens saved two set points and converted on fourth break point to head Konta off at the pass.
The Brit broke straight back to regain her advantage and settled the nerves with a service game to love to seal the first set.
She kept the pressure on at the start of the second set forcing Flipkens to save four break points but this time Konta was in the ascendency, breaking twice in a row before serving out the match comfortably.
She said, in her post match interview: “She made it difficult for me out there. She’s got this great ability at really frustrating her opponents with some of the balls she’s able to hit. She’s very creative in that way, so I think I was really happy I was able to work myself into the match and through it, to come through.”
Konta v Naomi Osaka – H2H: Konta leads 1-0
Up next for Konta is Naomi Osaka, who has been making her own rapid ascent the rankings. Last year, lying outside the Top 100 at 127 in the world, this year she is inside the Top 50 (No. 47) but has already been made to work for her spot in the second round, having to come from a set down.
A lot has changed for both of them since they last met in the qualification rounds of the US Open in 2015 and in truth we can trace Konta’s rise from that point as she played through qualification all the way through to the fourth round that year.
Konta said, of the match up: “I remember her playing once in the US Open, 2015, I think, in the quallies. Since then, she’s improved a lot. I have tried to, as well. I know she plays a big game. She has big shots. I’m definitely prepared to go in for a battle.”
Prediction: Konta in two sets.
Heather Watson def. Samantha Stosur 6-3 3-6 6-0
From the outset when Samantha Stosur ripped through Heather Watson’s service game it looked as though she would be set to slay some demons at her home Slam, but from a break down, Watson battled back to break the Aussie twice in a row before holding on to that advantage for the first set.
Her intensity dropped a little while Stosur got the bit between her teeth again, staring quickly again with a break of the Watson serve before going on to level the match.
But from there it all went sough for the Aussie as it was Watson’s turn to start the set cleanly, and getting the better of an epic fourth game before delivering a deciding set bagel to book her spot in the second round.
“There were some very long games and I had a slow start in both of the first two sets – in the third I wanted to make her work,” Watson told BBC Sport.
“Sam’s a great player – she’s beaten me both times before. I felt I prepared really well and felt fit in that third set.”
Watson v Jennifer Brady [Q] – First Meeting
While on paper this ought to to be a more comfortable encounter for the Guernsey girl, we know better than to just write off a lesser known qualifier Jennifer Brady. Although her start to the year was slow with just one match win in Brisbane qualies, she did find her groove in the Australian Open qualifying rounds while Watson’s warm up was the Hopman Cup.
This leaves the American maybe a little more match sharp and court savvy in the conditions in Melbourne where the courts are varying in speed. Brady had to battle with all her qualifying rounds going the distance, and by contrast her opener was far more comfortable for the loss of five games.
Watson will need to stick to her game plan, and maintain her aggressive game but obviously has the ability to switch her tactics. She does have more experience at both the tour and this level of match-play, but as always it comes down to her own levels of consistency.
Prediction: Watson in three sets.
Kyle Edmund def. Santiago Giraldo 6-2 7-5 6-3
Again what a difference a year makes. This time last year, Kyle Edmund was ruefully explain to journalists in press how his body had let him down after a gruelling five set opener where he had fallen away in the deciding set. This year it was a different story as Edmund imposed his serve, forehand and improved fitness over Santiago Giraldo.
Where once the soaring temperatures would have rendered the 22-year-old helpless, he remained cool, telling BBC Sport: “Last year was a very different scenario, so it was nice to concentrate on my tennis and let my body take care of me.”
Edmund v Pablo Carreno Busta  – H2H: Carreno Busta leads 1-0
While Pablo Carreno Busta might feel he has the edge going into their meeting with a 1-0 lead in their head to head, it was back in the Futures level events on clay, so perhaps we might just take that with a pinch of salt.
That being said 2016 saw the Spaniard reach four finals, losing two on clay and winning two on the hard courts, so he is not to be underestimated at all. He comes into the match-up with an almost-five-setter under his belt, winning by retirement but having been kept out there for a while, and Edmund has racked up a few more wins since the start of the year, so should feel confident he can put up a good fight.
Prediction: Edmund in four sets.
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