Konta in Kerber rematch on Olympic stage

By Ros Satar

  • Johanna Konta [10] (GBR) def. Svetlana Kuznetsova [8] (RUS)
  • Konta v Angelique Kerber [2] (GER) – H2H: Kerber leads 1-0
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – British No. 1 Johanna Konta showed true grit to battle past Svetlana Kuznetsova but now faces World No. 2 for the second time this year, Angelique Kerber.

 

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Johanna Konta [10] (GBR) def. Svetlana Kuznetsova [8] (RUS)

Konta withstood a veritable war of attrition to book her place in the quarter-finals of the Olympic Tennis, as she had to battle from a set down against tour veteran and old hand at Olympic pressure, Kuznetsova. The Russian was bidding for a place in the Olympic quarter-final for a second time, falling at that stage in 2004 to Amelie Mauresmo.

Having been bundled out of Beijing 2008 in the opening round and missing London 2012 altogether, Kuznetsova just looked the calmer and the sharper out there despite losing the opening game, as the pair traded breaks in the first four games.

Konta looked almost as ill at ease in the blistering heat as she had done on her opener with the Russian breaking Konta a third straight time for a lead.

She finally managed to hold her first service game but could not make any inroads into the Russian’s serve as she wrapped up the first set.

The momentum looked firmly with the higher seed as she broke straight away at the start of the second set, but experience shows that she could tail away, which she duly did, losing her next two serves on the bounce putting Konta back in the driving seat.

But nerves were on show as the Brit gave up her advantage in the next game, and had to toil to save four more break points in the next couple of games before levelling the match.

Kuznetsova was the first to break in the decider as once more the pair would play cat and mouse with two breaks a-piece but the tide looked to be turning as Konta again batted away three more break points to prevent the Russian from forcing a tie-break.

Konta had to work for the win, forcing Kuznetsova to save three match points along the way, with the fourth bringing a mighty reaction and a chance to take on the only one of the top seeds remaining for a spot in the semi-final.

 

Konta v Angelique Kerber [2] (GER) – H2H: Kerber leads 1-0

A lot has happened for both players since January of this year. Kerber of course beat Konta in the semi-final of the Australian Open before going on to win the tournament, beating World No. 1 Serena Williams in the process.

But Konta of course has not been standing still in the mean-time. Her run to the semi-final catapulted the Brit up the rankings and with a little (understandable) period of adjustment, she has finally notched up her own WTA tour level silverware, winning her first title in Stanford at the start of the hard court summer.

That being said, Kerber silenced some of her own critics by reaching the Wimbledon final as well, but she could not deny Williams on that occasion.

Kerber has not had a trouble free summer though. She opted not to defend her Stanford title and headed to the clay of Bastad, ultimately withdrawing from the tournament with an elbow injury. While she dominated Aussie Samantha Stosur in her third round match, she was broken by Stosur, playing far more competitively in the second set, squandering a match point in the process.

She broke straight back and served out the match at the second time of asking, but on the whole she has looked strong.

The slower court and high bouncing balls might well play better into Kerber’s hands. Often in the match against Kuznetsova, Konta was having to wield her racquet around shoulder height, and at times was snatching away at shots as errors racked up.

Kerber has looked good, but as always can be vulnerable, and we have seen plenty of evidence that Olympic tennis matters to players. With the dispatches of Novak Djokovic and Agnieszka Radwanska in the openers, and followed on Tuesday with Serena Williams and Garbine Muguruza, this is now wide open.

Konta might well fancy herself as an outside shot, if she can find the form she displayed against Caroline Garcia in the second round. She played aggressively, she took the ball early and came forward decisively.

One thing is for sure – Kerber can keep her out there for a year and a day – she is still one of the grittiest defenders on the tour, and Konta may well have pull off another Houdini-type performance, but with the German yet to drop a set, she probably has the slight edge.

Prediction: Kerber in three sets.

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