By Ros Satar at the Copper Box Arena, London
- Johanna Konta v Yulia Putintseva | H2H: Konta leads 2-1
- Katie Boulter v Zarina Diyas | First Meeting
- Anne Keothavong keeps cards close to chest as to Day 2 line-up
LONDON, ENGLAND – All to play for, or an uphill battle, as Johanna Konta and an ailing Katie Boulter go again in a bid to advance Great Britain to World Group II.
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Johanna Konta v Yulia Putintseva | H2H: Konta leads 2-1
Just as in Bath, Johanna Konta found herself wrestling with the weight of expectation and pressure of playing at home as she ground out a tough three-set victory over Zarina Diyas on Day 1 of the Fed Cup World Group II Play-off against Kazakhstan.
The key is that Konta found a way to settle and adapt not only to the change in environment that Fed Cup brings, but also to problem solve against a highly creative player in Diyas. It will be a completely different kettle of fish when she takes on the feisty Yulia Putintseva.
Their last encounter was another frustrating first round exit at Roland Garros where Putintseva’s trademark ‘antics’ included mimicking Konta’s distinctive service action. One thing that was evident was that the boisterous support of the Kazak fans was getting under Konta’s skin, so she can readily expect more of the same.
The fact that Konta has beaten Putintseva twice, and on her least proficient surface of clay should give her a little more confidence that on a faster, grippier surface, the playing field may be a little more level.
As much as Konta has had her wobbles in the past, generally she should be considered to be perhaps a little more mentally stable than Putintseva, but the Kazak has an impressive fighting spirit as we saw in the second rubber.
Both play aggressive tennis, and Putintseva has a small edge in terms of her movement, but Konta’s focus on adding variety and perfecting her shot selection, not to mention being able to power opponents off the court could see her put GB back ahead.
Prediction: Konta in three sets.
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Katie Boulter v Zarina Diyas | First Meeting
In what could be a battle of the walking wounded, GB captain Anne Keothavong will be hoping it will actually be Katie Boulter who can get over a ‘devastating’ loss to hopefully close out a win over Diyas.
What did impress was that despite struggling physically, Boulter found a way to try and shorten the points and came within an agonising three match points of putting GB in front. She now has a chance at redemption. She will either get Britain over the line, or has an opportunity to take the hosts into a decider.
Diyas has slipped down the rankings but in the first set showed she could very much punch above her weight, before eventually running out of steam. Boulter must demonstrate the same high-quality level as observed by Putintseva.
Diyas has a lot of variety but maybe lacks the power that Boulter can bring to the party, and if she has fully recovered, then this is winnable, and the tie does still feel very much in the balance – as it should with both teams tied.
Prediction: Boulter in three sets.
Keothavong: We’re in it to win it
‘We go again’ has begin to be a rallying cry for the GB captain as Keothavong looks to analyse what the British team might have learned from today’s tied matches.
She surmised: “It’s another day. We came into this weekend expecting a tough challenge from the Kazaks. We certainly got that today. But we’re in it to win it, the players hopefully will rest up and get the treatment they need, the rest they need to recover and we go again for tomorrow. There’s nothing more to it. They know what they have to do.”
She would not be drawn on whether they had learned anything more about the visitors after today’s matches.
She said, enigmatically: “I think that’s something we’ll discuss with the players later.”
It is her belief that Boulter will be fine for tomorrow, but she may have to opt for Heather Watson, who is tied against Diyas with the Kazak having won their latest encounter last year in Beijing.
Watson is also GB’s best double’s player, and she may have to play both Watson and Konta (who have been practising together), after suitable rest should Watson be brought in. The risk is that Watson’s form has been awful of late, with no main draw wins this year and her last match won was the final qualifying round in Hobart at the start of the season.
Play begins on the final day of the play-off at 12pm.
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