By Ros Satar

  • Johanna Konta [3] def. Zheng Saisai 6-2 4-6 6-3
  • Konta faces Dominika Cibulkova [2] in the semi-final
  • H2H: Cibulkova leads 1-0
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA USA – British No. 1 Johanna Konta continued her stunning Stanford debut by overcoming Zheng Saisai and setting up a semi-final clash with 2013 champion Dominika Cibulkova.

 

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Johanna Konta [3] def. Zheng Saisai 6-2 4-6 6-3

The first set was a masterclass in aggressive ball-striking by the Brit, striking out early with an immediate break. Konta was constantly hustling Zheng, both from the back of the court with heavy deep balls, and moving forward swinging forcefully.

looked as though the Chinese player would be hopefully outclassed as the first set was wrapped up quickly, but the tide was turning, as Zheng clawed back three breaks in a row before finally holding for a lead at 5-4, serving out the set.

There was a long break as both players ducked out of the Californian sunshine, and it was a one-set shoot-out, and Konta started exactly as she had in the first set – breaking Zheng whose momentum may had been dented with the extended break, but she had found a way past the Brit, making her second guess herself, and forcing a break back.

With Konta trying to find a way through the Chinese player’s defence, she once again seemed to struggle on serve, she showed just how effective she could be with a drive volley, working the points to hang in there, saving two break points and snapping Zheng’s three game run.

The rallies were picking up, as was the exertion levels for the players, as the clock ticked well over two hours.

The end, when it came, was swift, with Konta reeling off four games in a row to book her spot in the semi-final on her first Stanford outing.

 

Johanna Konta v Dominika Cibulkova [2] – H2H: Cibulkova leads 1-0

Is it time for a little revenge for the Brit? The pair’s only meeting was a the start of the season where the Slovakian put the Brit out in the Hobart opening round – not that it seemed to dent Konta’s progress during the Asia Pacific swing!

Cibulkova’s story is equally fascinating though. After four months off the tour due to injury last year, she has more than managed her comeback. She won the Katowice final – her first since winning in Kuala Lumpur in 2014, was edged in Acapulco (lost to Sloane Stephens) and in Madrid (lost to Simona Halep) before picking up the Eastbourne title at the expense of Karolina Pliskova.

Of course it was a close run thing whether she would have to postpone her wedding day as she backed up her first grass court title with a run to the Wimbledon quarter-final but none of that has dented her hard court form.

This is going to be an intriguing match-up. Their other battle was a very tight one, with Cibulkova edging Konta 7-6(6) 7-5. The Slovakian will run every thing down, but she also has a solid aggressive approach.

Where Konta was effective in her quarter-final was coming forward, striking the ball early with some devastating drive volleys and she will need to play very aggressively to stick with Cibulkova. This should well be another tight battle.

Prediction: Cibulkova in three sets.

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