By Britwatch Tennis

  • Johanna Konta v Zheng SaiSai – H2H: 1-0
  • Konta defeated eigth seed Venus Williams in straight sets
  • Zheng advanced beating Carina Witthoeft

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – British No. 1 Johanna Konta bids to continue her best run to date at the Australian Open, when she meets Zheng Saisai in the second round.

Konta joked after defeating eighth seed and seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams that when she saw the draw, she wanted to just be able to last an hour, but now she surely has to fancy her chances of a potential third round clash with former Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki [30].

Williams, who finished the year strongly in 2015 had not had the best of starts at all to 2016, falling in the Auckland opener where she was defending her title, and then looking inhibited with a strapped thigh, especially in the second set against the British No. 1.

Konta may have a win over Zheng but it was in the first round of qualification in the 2013 French Open. Since then, both their games have come a long way, and Konta’s spin through the rankings at the tail end of the year puts her up ahead in the rankings.

Zheng picked up some solid ITF wins last year, and her best run in the latter half of the year was the Dalian title backed up with a couple of quarter-finals (Tokyo and Guangzhou) before tailing off a little.

Gifted an advance in Shenzhen at the start of this year (where Konta fell in the opening round) when Petra Kvitova had to retire feeling ill, she went out in the next round, leaving her all square with the Brit in terms of matches played this year.

There is no doubt about it, since changing her coaching set up to be closer to her team in Spain, there is an air of calm, and pragmatism that goes hand in hand with Konta now. Even where results have not been as great, she has looked to the positive and with her doubles win alongside British No. 2 Heather Watson, a sense of variety in her game could help her combat Zheng’s favourite drop shot.

She may not be as tall or as powerful as Konta but Zheng plays with some good court smarts and speed, so Konta will need every ounce of her concentration and iron will, from the deliberate serving action to calming her nerves should she find herself in that position once more.

While it is tempting to look ahead in the draw after some of the carnage of the last couple of days, Konta is still in a section with the rest of its seeds intact. So we will adopt her own sage advice of just one match at a time – this is winnable in her current form and as such the pressure will be on Konta to win.

Konta and Zheng are scheduled first on Court 8, at 11am (Midnight, GMT).

 

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