By Ros Satar, in Madrid

  • Johanna Konta def. Magdalena Rybarikova [16] 6-3 7-5
  • Faces Bernarda Pera next – H2H tied at 1-1
MADRID, SPAIN – Johanna Konta got her first win on clay at the Mutua Madrid Open, and sets up a clash with Bernada Pera for the third time this year.

 

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Johanna Konta def. Magdalena Rybarikova [16] 6-3 7-5

It was a confident start for the British No. 1 Johanna Konta as she looked for a first win on the clay of Madrid. After weathering a long opening service game against the No. 16 seed Magdalena Rybarikova, Konta looked to have her serve firing well, and as is often the way with Konta’s game, everything falls into place behind it.

Her movement looked solid and Konta’s resolve was tested in another long game, saving four break points to keep her advantage, before wrapping up the first set.

However, the second set was a different story – with the score-line matching the beginning of the first set, this time in Rybarikova’s favour. Konta did display a little more of that fighting spirit, getting her first hold of the set to love.

From there the confidence looked to be flowing again, as the Brit got the break back, and held fairly comfortably to level things up. It seemed to kick some Dutch courage into Konta who came through another tricky service hold before breaking Rybarikova, before finishing with the kind of serve to love that we were used to seeing her put away when she was making strides up the rankings.

Speaking immediately after her match, she said: “Overall it was a satisfying match for me because there was a lot in the match. A lot of momentum shifts, a lot of difficulty out there. Her style of play and the conditions out there are also quite tricky here just for the way the ball plays quite quick and flies quite a bit. Overall, I really enjoyed being out there, I got to play a really tough first round and work on the stuff that I’m working on, trying to stay solid, trying to stay positive and just building one point at a time.”

 

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It certainly made a change to her outing last year, where she did not go onto court until the early hours of the morning, losing in her opener once again.

“We were actually laughing about that before I was going out on court [playing until 2am] – there was no way I was going to play as late as I did last year so I was already winning.”

Johanna Konta on Fed Cup duty, 2018

TALLINN, ESTONIA – FEBRUARY 10: Johanna Konta of Great Britain looks on ahead of the Europe/Africa Promotional Play-Off Semi Final match, of the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas on February 10, 2018 in Tallinn, Estonia. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for LTA )

Because of her commitment to Fed Cup, she knew that she would have to miss Stuttgart this time around although the indoor clay can present quite a few challenges in itself.

 

“It was going to be almost an impossible task for me to go from Japan to Stuttgart. I knew that straight away when I committed to Fed Cup that my first clay court event after that would be here in Madrid. I had a good week of training at home, I also got to adjust back to the jetlag.

“It was a very bizarre experience heading that far east in April just in completely the wrong part of the year for us. It was a tough one for us out there but overall, I think we all competed hard. I had two great matches and Japan is a great place to go.”

 

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Konta v Bernarda Pera [Q] | H2H: Tied at 1-1

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Having broken the news to her that she would be facing her apparent 2018 nemesis (Bernarda Pera) this year for the third time, to ‘again’ and laughter, she joked that while you might go your whole career and never play a particular player, you sometimes end up with the same player over and over.

“I guess for me right now, and for her we’ll be playing each other all the time (laughs). It’s a great opportunity to play another great player. She’s playing really well this year. She’s winning a lot of matches and she’s steadily moving up the rankings and that’s why she’s putting herself in positions like this and I’ve worked my way into the second round as well so looking forward to another good match”

While Pera had absolutely nothing to lose in Australia, she could not back that up when the pair faced each other again in Doha. The confidence of a couple of wins in Fed Cup, but also a solid amount of time to get time in on the clay really seems to have made a difference.

Compared to her movement in Charleston which looked very tentative, she seemed a lot more at ease with the sliding.

She explained: “I definitely couldn’t prepare as well as I would have liked to for Charleston and especially the movement side. I think Charleston courts are reasonably slippy as well, so I just wasn’t as prepared as my opponent who got to play two matches through qualifying and also a main draw match as well. So, she had three matches under her belt there. She played a good match. I knew she’s a dangerous player and I guess actually after Charleston I didn’t go on the hard before Japan. I stayed on the clay, so I managed to get a good number of weeks on the surface and yeah – time does help.”

This could be a tricky match for sure as Pera has had the benefit of a couple of rounds of qualifying here already, but a win at last in Madrid, and the fact that Konta came through some very tough moments in this opener makes her a slightly more solid prospect than perhaps a couple of months ago, where she could well have lost a match from a set up.

Prediction: Konta in three sets.

Main Image: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

 

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