By Ros Satar

  • Johanna Konta v Zarina Diyas
  • Katie Boulter v Yulia Putintseva
LONDON, ENGLAND – The successful singles line-up of Johanna Konta and Katie Boulter fly the flag once more as they bid for that elusive spot in Fed Cup World Group II.

 

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Johanna Konta v Zarina Diyas | H2H: Konta leads 1-0

It was a good humoured Johanna Konta bantering with her team mates ahead of tomorrow’s first day of the Fed Cup World Group II play-off against Kazakhstan. Joking with team-mates, and deftly handling scheduling questions (after Miami she headed back to practice on the clay ahead of Rabat, next week).

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She will face Zarina Diyas in the first rubber, in what must be a relief not to be the one to carry British hopes, as it was in Bath. Although Konta has a winning record over Diyas, it dates back to 2015 on familiar turf for the Brit, at Eastbourne. However, the crowd may e a factor – the home crowd feeling will be intensified for the first rubber, and expectation after Konta’s dramatic conclusion to the Bath Fed cup tie.

READ MORE | Tennis | Fed Cup Group I Promotional Play-off | Konta overcomes collapse and ‘out of body’ experience to send Britain to World Group II Play-offs in April

The Kazakh is mainly an aggressive baseliner and has powerful & accurate groundstrokes. Konta will need to be wary of her forehand, she can generate a decent amount of pace and will look to push her opposition all around the court. If she gets away with this, she can control everything from the back of the court, but perhaps lacks a little firepower in her serve.

Konta will also look to play aggressive, and more importantly will hope that her serve is firing on all cylinders. If it is, then all the other aspects of her game tend to knot together and it will not be easy for Diyas to power past her.

What will be important is for Konta to pick up an easy win, She had to work for her victories in Bath, and with a feisty Yulia Putintseva to come, she will need her energy.

Prediction: Konta in two sets.

 

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Katie Boulter v Yulia Putintseva | First Meeting

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British No. 2 Katie Boulter has not necessarily had the best run of luck since her victories in Bath with a viral illness laying her low after Miami. In facing Putintseva she will have to dig deep into those reserves and memories from Bath.

It is a first time encounter against a player that Anne Keothavong knows well from back in the day, as she ruefully remembered:

“We all know what she’s like. The players are professionals. You know what’s coming but it’s important to stay in your own little bubble and not rise to her bait. That’s what’s got her to where she is. She’s got tremendous character, huge personality out there on the court. But we’ve got fantastic competitors in the team who are capable of dealing with that.

“I played against her back in the day, so I speak from experience as well. It didn’t quite go as well for me [laughs]. The players we have on the team will be well equipped to deal with anything that their way.

Putintseva laughed off the comments, as she recalled playing her in her mid-teens as she was just joining the WTA Tour.

“I just remember that I beat Keothavong when I was very young, I was 14 years old. She was not very nice with me, she didn’t shake my hand and said that I was too loud, that I was screaming “Come on” so loud, she went to talk to the refs – it was a funny experience because I was really young and coming to the WTA Tour level.

“So it was kind of funny that she said I had a character. But I am going to do my best anyway.”

Boulter can expect solid play from her – surprisingly she can be patient, and aggressive, but at times her hot-headedness can undo her game. Her form has gained pace a little with a run to the fourth round of Miami, and outside her reaching the Sydney quarter-final, from qualifying at the start of the year, as she has continued to suffer from some injury issues with her lumbar spine.

Prediction: Putintseva in three sets

 

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