By Ros Satar, in Melbourne
- Garbiñe Muguruza  def. Johanna Konta 6-4 6-7(3) 7-5
- Konta & Muguruza play a quality match for both of them in a while amids court scheduling a
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Johanna Konta was narrowly defeated by Garbiñe Muguruza in a three set thriller, the latest ever starting match at the Australian Open.
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Garbiñe Muguruza  def. Johanna Konta 6-4 6-7(3) 7-5
Amidst the confusion of whether or not there would be a court change, eventually Johanna Konta and Garbiñe Muguruza took to their designated court for a 12:30am start. With the few passionate fans who had chosen to remain under a partially closed roof, it was a quick start for the pair.
Muguruza broke immediately and while Konta stayed with her for the rest of the set, it was enough of an advantage to take the first set. Konta was unable to take advantage of a chance to take the lead in the second set as the pair continued to trade well-matched blows as the clock ticked towards 2am.
A couple of chances came and went for Muguruza as Konta hung in to force a decider. As competitive as the set had been, it just took two breaks of serve for Konta to level the gap and force a decider, amidst yet more chaos of the roof needing closing for light showers just after the tie-break started.
Perhaps now we can all be thankful that if the third set went to 6-6 it would merely be a 10-point tie-break to finish it. There was absolutely nothing to separate them in the third set, with Muguruza looking to the one under the most pressure.
Performing to the handful of spectators left, it came down to who would blink first – and perhaps had it gone to a tie-break Konta might have nabbed it. Instead just the first five minutes of the match and the last five separated them as Muguruza broke for a place in the third round.
There were many positives for both players to take out of this match. Neither have had a particularly stable time of it on the tour. Konta and indeed Muguruza’s slightly less dramatic slip down the rankings have taken them out of the running often for the big prizes.
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Scheduling & Seagull Poo Chaos
With the preceding match between Alexander Zverev and Jeremy Chardy running to five sets, and ordinarily a midnight rule in place, the plan had been to move them to Court No. 3 but in the evenings, seagulls wheeling about are a regular occurrence, and with the court covered in seagull poo, the time it would have taken to clean it, versus the time to get onto the original court was negligible.
Konta explained: “Once Zverev and Chardy went to the decider, to the fifth set we were actually going to go out to Court 3 but there was basically seagull and poo everywhere so they had the court. By the time they would gave cleaned the court it would have taken about 10-15 minutes and we were in the same boat [again].
She made no real change to her preparations but neither player was happy about taking to the court so late:
“I think ideally both of us would have wanted to play early. this is no-one’s ideal schedule to play in the wee hours of the morning But again we don’t make the schedule unfortunately and we both dealt with the same challenge.”
It certainly was one of the better quality matches of tournament so far, and indeed for both of them it showed a real step up in level.
“I think I played a great match, I think a lot to do with the level of match is also chemistry between two players and the way two game styles match up. Garbiñe and I have had – I think every single match we’ve played has been three sets so we obviously do feed off each other’s game quite well to push each other to play off a higher level.
“I think that came through again tonight. It doesn’t guarantee every time we play we’re going to have epic battles but I think it just shows some game styles match up better than others in terms of the kind of tennis it can create.”
Under her new partnership with Dimitri Zavialoff, it will be interesting to see how this kicks on in the next few months on the European and American hard courts.
She continued: “I love to take every opportunity to learn from every single match. i would have liked to win this match and learn from it. But it didn’t go my way, but I’ll definitely be looking to just keep looking forward as I usually do.
Konta will be leading the British charge in the Fed Cup Europe/Africa Group I tie in Bath, from 6-9 February.
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