By Ros Satar

  • Johanna Konta [4] def. Dalila Jakupovic 6-4 6-2
  • Johanna Konta [4] v Donna Vekic [6] | Konta leads 2-1
  • Ashleigh Barty [1] def. Katie Boulter 6-0 6-2
NOTTINGHAM, UK – Johanna Konta reaches her first semi-final since Wimbledon, and is in a rematch of last year’s Nottingham final with Donna Vekic, at the Nature Valley Open.

 

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Johanna Konta [4] def. Dalila Jakupovic 6-4 6-2

It has felt like a long time coming, but we are beginning to see the glimpses of the Johanna Konta whose remarkable run in 2016 propelled her into the top ranks of the women’s game. No more so than her quarter-final against Dalila Jakupovic.

Dalila Jakupovic in the quarter-final of the Nature Valley Classic, WTA Nottingham 2018

Dalila Jakupovic in the quarter-final of the Nature Valley Classic, WTA Nottingham 2018 | (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for LTA)

We have seen the British No. 1 unravel at the hands of players she has either never faced before, who tend to play freely with no pressure on them to come through with a win, and for the Slovenian, it looked like she had the measure of Konta early, grabbing a break before the first sit down.

Konta did not panic, instead adjusting her game to deal with the aggressive game coming from the other side of the net, and kept her patience, breaking her twice to take the first set.

Jakupovic started the second set with an immediate break, but was broken straight back, and in a mirror of the previous set, broke for the last two games to book a rematch of last year’s final with defending champion Donna Vekic.

 

Ashleigh Barty [1] def. Katie Boulter [WC] 6-0 6-2

Katie Boulter in the quarter-final of the Nature Valley Open, WTA Nottingham 2018

Katie Boulter in the quarter-final of the Nature Valley Open, WTA Nottingham 2018 | (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for LTA)

There was no joy for Katie Boulter – top seed Ashleigh Barty has a game suited for grass and showed why as she effectively stopped Boulter gaining any traction in the first set, even though the Brit did have a couple of looks at Barty’s serve in the first game.

Boulter had a brief flurry of hope breaking the Aussie in the first game of the second set but was soon pegged back with three successive breaks. There is just reward for Boulter who gets herself a wild-card for the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham next week.

 

 

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Johanna Konta [4] v Donna Vekic [6] | H2H: Konta leads 2-1

Donna Vekic in the quarter-final of the Nature Valley Open, WTA Nottingham 2018

Donna Vekic in the quarter-final of the Nature Valley Open, WTA Nottingham 2018 | (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for LTA)

Few will forget the differing fortunes for the pair last year. Konta, still coasting on some outstanding results in 2017 lost to Vekic in the third set, but kicked off her grass court season in style, but had to overcome that defeat just a few weeks later when Vekic and Konta met in the second round at Wimbledon.

Again it came down to a tight third set, with nerves and momentum switching back and forth until Konta prevailed 10-8 in the decider, before consoling a visibly distraught Vekic at the net.

 

READ MORE | Konta outlasts Vekic to reach Wimbledon third round for the first time

Konta outlasts Vekic to reach Wimbledon third round for the first time

Vekic’s title defence has been tough. She was taken to three tough sets by British wild-card Gabriella Taylor who acquitted herself well, and while she has come through her last two matches in straight sets, she has still been pushed, but has improved match on match.

Vekic has arguably had a slightly more consistent year, but not especially troubling draws too much, while Konta’s battle with regaining her confidence since the spin at the end of last year has been a lot longer to manifest itself.

While she still has not quite conquered clay, it was her best clay court season on the main tour, and more importantly her confidence seems to be coming back slowly. It may seem like a while for her and new coach Michael Joyce to see the result we have come accustomed to, but if there is a surface that this needs to click on, grass is it.

The styles of both Vekic and Konta is suited on the surface – Vekic has a good serve, makes good use of angles and can defend well, and her aggressive style will match up closely to Konta who will look to do a lot of damage with her own serve. Perhaps Konta plays a bit more of attacking game but of course can be vulnerable if she is forced to come to the net. That being said, it is noticeable that Konta is coming forward a lot more, and just needs to sharpen up that feel at the net for more finessed volleys as opposed to the swing volleys that have worked well for her in the past.

This is a tough one to call – both have improved a lot over the course of the tournament, and with home crowd advantage, Konta ought to fire herself up, but expect this to be a big three setter.

Prediction: Vekic in three sets.

 

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