By Ros Satar, in Stuttgart
- Johanna Konta [6/WC] v Naomi Osaka [Q] – H2H: Konta leads 2-0
- Thoughts on the Fed Cup weekend, and the other Stuttgart news
STUTTGART, GERMANY – Johanna Konta is ready for some normality to return to the tour after an eventful Fed Cup Weekend, and starts against qualifier Naomi Osaka.
Final Fed Cup Thoughts
With a day off for the elaborate celebrations of the tournament’s 40th anniversary, there was more than ample time for Britain’s Johanna Konta to reflect on a weekend of unpleasant firsts.
The British Fed Cup team were always going to be the underdogs – that much was clear. But the chaos that ensued as the highly volatile and unpredictable team captain Ilie Nastase launched a volley of abuse at the tie referee, Konta, and GB team captain Anne Keothavong stole the headlines for all the wring reasons.
However, given that Konta flew in with World No. 5 Simona Halep on the same flight, and was able to laugh her way through recounting the weekend with British journalists shows the resilience, and a pleasing natural side to the British No. 1 and the World No. 7 .
She explained: ““For me it wasn’t just what Ilie did, it was actually what happened with the crowd after, a game later. I had never been in a situation like that before, I’d never been verbally threatened or abused,” explaining that the crowd had been equally abusive, yelling in English.
She also came in for perhaps unfair criticism that she had over-reacted, but she went on to explain: “It’s one of those situations were not in my shoes, they were not on my side of the net. I don’t believe they also had all the facts at that time but again, I don’t think I’m one also be emotional for no reason.
“Again a very different situation to find myself in. Hopefully not one that I will find myself in again any time soon (laughs) but I’ll be better prepared if it happens again.”
Johanna Konta [6/WC] v Naomi Osaka [Q] – H2H: Konta leads 2-0
It has been quite the eventful year for the Brit, who I interviewed in my first year in Stuttgart when she earned a place in the main draw as a Lucky Loser. She has played well on clay on the lower tiers, but the translation on the main tour since her progression up the rankings over the last two years has maybe not been as fruitful.
“I’m actually really happy I got two clay court matches under my belt. I think right now I’m also just trying to accumulate as much experience on this surface as possible. I think compared to how many matches I’ve played on the hard and even also the grass, I haven’t played as many on the clay over the last couple of years. So I think the more I can get under my belt here, I think the better prepared I will be for maybe playing Halep again, at some point.”
The pair are actually slated to face each other in the quarter-finals so that looks like to happen, if she can get past Naomi Osaka. The 19-year-old is certainly match-sharp – she twice had to come from a set down in her opening two rounds, finally booking her place in the third qualifying round 10-8 in the deciding tie-break, before relatively coasting into the main draw.
That match-tightness will come in handy as faces an equally solid server with a power base off both wings. We expected a cracker of a match earlier this year when they faced each other in the second round of the Australian Open, but Konta was all about demonstrating her outstanding run the year before had been no fluke. She powered past the teen in straight sets for the loss of just six games, and is looking to be just as effective.
“We are on the clay, however it is quite a ‘hard courty-clay’ so I think she will be tough to play on here because of her big strikes. [I will] look to neutralise her big serve because I know she has one and just big ground strokes in general. And then just look to really put my mark on the match where I can.”
Something else is happening in Stuttgart
As we build to that 6:30pm start time on Wednesday, the questioning is getting ever frenetic around the subject of wildcards here, there and elsewhere and also how player in general returning from a ban are treated.
Konta was not particularly forthcoming in Miami, although she clarified her thoughts here:
“I think there are many things that obviously will be reviewed in terms of how this is handled and how things move forward. But the best thing I can do for myself is to really remove myself as much from the situation as possible.
“I’m here to look after my own career, I’m here to play my own tennis. I’m not here to be anyone’s judge or really not looking to involve myself too highly in that, because it’s counter-productive to me and in my process.
“One thing you can be sure of is every player that steps out there will be giving her best and I think as long as we enjoy the tennis that is being played, and as long it stays as much about the tennis as possible, I think we give ourselves the best shot of keeping the integrity of our sport.”
Konta and Osaka are scheduled on Centre Court, not before 1:30pm (12:30pm BST).
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