By Michael Stafford-Jones

  • Johanna Konta [1] vs Sam Stosur [8]
  • Victory would ensure Konta ends 2016 inside world’s top 10
  • Stosur will try to turn around a run of 11 losses in her last 17 matches
ZHUHAI, CHINA – British No.1 Johanna Konta will end the year inside the world’s top 10 if she beats Sam Stosur in her first round-robin match at the WTA Elite Trophy.

 

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Johanna Konta [1] vs Sam Stosur [8] H2H: First meeting

In August 2015, Konta was ranked 114th in the world. It is incredible how far she has come since then. If she had not been forced to withdraw from Hong Kong, and Svetlana Kuznetsova had not produced an improbable late-season surge, the Brit would almost certainly have taken part in the illustrious WTA Finals in Singapore.

However, starting the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai as the No.1 seed is not a bad consolation prize, and Konta would surely love nothing more than to finish the season in style by winning the event. The first obstacle standing in the way of that aim is Sam Stosur, who she has never played before.

The Australian, 32, has maintained an admirable level of consistency despite seeming to be past her best in tennis terms. She has remained inside the world’s top 30 ever since she entered it in June 2009 and, on her day, can be a tough opponent for almost anybody – as Simona Halep found out to her cost during a rainy fourth-round clash at the French Open.

Stosur reached the semi-final in Paris, her best showing at a Grand Slam since 2012, but has been in woeful form since then, losing 11 of her 17 matches. It is hard to imagine her fortunes changing against Konta, who has one of the most reliable games on tour. Everyone in tennis knows the Australian has an excellent serve which can be unplayable at times, and she will need it to be somewhere near its best to give her a chance.

Whenever Stosur produces a weak serve, expect Konta to pounce and drill the return hard and deep into the corners of the court. And if the Australian throws in several lacklustre serves in a single game, the Brit will probably break her. If this happens early on, such an advantage could be terminal for the World No.20, as Zhuhai’s top seed possesses an excellent serve of her own and would only need to hold a few times more to secure the first set.

If that happens, the second set could be easier for Konta. Given her recent poor run and the Brit’s excellent year, it seems unlikely that Stosur would believe she can win from a set down. However, the Australian believes good performances from her are just around the corner.

Stosur told wtatennis.com: “Sometimes it only takes one or two matches and then you feel really good about things, and then, all of the sudden, you can get on a little bit of a roll. Who knows? I feel like I’m in a decent spot now.”

Such optimism from the Australian is admirable, but I expect Konta to beat her comfortably.

Prediction: Konta in straight sets

 

Konta v Stosur is the second match on the Stadium Court in Zhuhai tomorrow, and is likely to begin at about 9am UK time.

 

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