By Ros Satar
- Johanna Konta  def. Elise Mertens  6-2 6-1
- Konta v Venus Williams  in the fourth round
- H2H: 3-3
MIAMI, USA – Johanna Konta’s title defence continued with a dominating win over Elise Mertens, setting up a clash with Venus Williams in the Miami Open fourth round.
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Johanna Konta  def. Elise Mertens  6-2 6-1
Miami certainly seems to be agreeing with British No. 1 Johanna Konta, as she continued her title defence with a convincing win over Elise Mertens. Once more the Brit’s serve set up the rest of her game as she overpowered Mertens, who had a strong start to the year. The Belgian impressed at the Hopman Cup, before scooping the Hobart title, and making the Australian Open semi-final.
However, the wheels looked to have come off a little after hold. She put up a flurry of resistance and broke the Brit straight back to begin with before Konta broke her another two times to take the first set, before coasting through the second set in similar fashion.
What else was key was that Konta was on and off the court in a little over an hour while her next opponent was involved in an epic three setter just shy of three hours!
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Konta v Venus Williams  | H2H: 3-3
Venus Williams battled with Kiki Bertens – having raced into a 5-0 lead, Bertens hit back winning seven games in a row to take the first set. The pair battled in the second set before Williams levelled the match before a hard fought decider. Mertens had three match points before cramp in her arm saw her at one stage lose the racquet completely, as Williams clawed back the initiative before serving out for the match to love.
In the early days of their head to head, Konta had reeled off three wins in a row from her breakout year at the Australian Open but the tide turned in 2017, as Konta’s form started to waver a little. Williams delivered a masterclass to the Brit at the Wimbledon semi-final and their head to head is now finely poised.
Williams’ resurgence over the past year in particular saw her back in the top echelon of the WTA culminating as the runner-up of the WTA Finals, but her start to the year faltered with two first round exits (Sydney and Australian Open) before reaching the semi-final at Indian Wells.
Back to back wins for Konta have been hard to come by with her best result this year being the Brisbane quarter-final and since then finding that consistency has been a challenge for Konta. She is, however, nothing if not focussed on the bigger picture, as our chat with her after her opening loss at Indian Wells shows.
This is a tough one to call – Williams’ experience really showed as she ground away at Bertens and took advantage of the tightness in the Belgian’s game and also her physical issues to grab the win, but at what cost.
Williams is still very much a power-house of the game, with an attacking all-court game. Her doubles prowess still serves her well, and that is very much an area she can damage Konta if she comes in to the net. In fairness the Brit tried that a lot more this time around, but her volleys can be a little hit and miss (literally) at times.
Konta will absolutely need to have her serve firing once more – Williams can more than match her in that regard, and will punish any shorter balls without question.
The effects of that long match for Williams will be key, and Konta ought to come into this well-rested, but cannot expect to have as easy a match as she had against Mertens, who honestly had a bad day at the office. Konta’s confidence is creeping up, but Williams is coming in a lot more match-sharp than the Brit.
We expect a long three setter, whatever the result, with a huge tumble down the rankings on the cards for Konta if she cannot defend the title. We give Konta a slight edge having come off court far quicker, but it would be no surprise if Williams pulls out the win as experience shows.
Prediction: Konta in three sets.
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