- Johanna Konta  def. Maria Sakkari  6-4 6-3
- Will face Victoria Azarenka in the semi-final
- Elise Mertens  v Naomi Osaka [4/WC]
NEW YORK, USA – British No. 1 Johanna Konta is into the Western & Southern Open for the first time, as we look at both line-ups.
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Johanna Konta  def. Maria Sakkari  6-4 6-3
British No. 1 Johanna Konta booked her spot in the Western & Southern Open for the first time, as she delivered an emphatic win over Serena Williams’ conqueror, Maria Sakkari. Perhaps suffering a bit of a hangover after such a long battle and momentous win, nothing seemed to work for Sakkari, while Konta just kept a sense of steady pressure on the Greek.
From the start, Konta had three break point chances, before finally coming good on her fifth try. Sakkari toiled hard in the first game of the second set, but maybe even more remarkable – the Greek brought up two chances of her own to break – the first against Konta’s serve in the tournament.
As it was, Sakkari could not get over the line and although Konta could not convert once more, she did not look close to being shifted off her axis, as she closed a spot in the final four for the first time.
She told reporters: “I knew it was going to be a tough match. I mean, we have played a lot of great matches in the past, and none of them have been easy and they will never be easy either way.
“Overall just pleased the way I competed. I thought I served again better and better as the match went on, I thought, and just overall I thought it was actually some good tennis out there.
“I definitely feel like I’m competing better and better. But also the challenges are going to be becoming more and more difficult, because everyone is also competing better and better as the more matches we play, especially deeper into any tournament.”
Konta v Victoria Azarenka | Konta leads H2H 2-1
It was a similar start to the year for the pair. After calling time on her season after the US Open last year, Konta’s start to the season consisted of three straight losses before a run to the Monterrey semi-final before lockdown hit on a global scale.
A tentative return while still managing the knee issues at the Battle of the Brits saw a win and a loss in the singles, and it looked like her start to the year would be slow with a first round loss, but things caught light in New York with three emphatic wins in a row.
For Victoria Azarenka, her season only started in Monterrey with a loss, and despite turning out for a domestic invitational, before Lexington, it has been a four-match winning streak now for the Belarusian.
They have never gone the distance, and the honours went to Konta last time they played, but even putting the pandemic aside, it feels like a clean slate coming into this match as so much has happened to both of them since their last meeting.
Konta will need a strong serving arm, but her patterns of play have been very solid for the whole of this week. Both play such an aggressive game, so it will really be who can stay the more consistent. Azarenka does have the ability to test Konta’s footwork and yank her off the baseline to put her under pressure at the net and showed against Ons Jabeur that the more she gets a chance to, the more she relishes the battle.
Prediction: Konta in three sets.
Elise Mertens  v Naomi Osaka [4/WC]
On Friday, Naomi Osaka will take to the court after having withdrawn on Wednesday evening, taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice. It would prompt the USTA, ATP Tour and WTA to take the unprecedented action of suspending play for the entire day in support, followiing protests and similar strikes in US Sports, following the shooting of Jacob Blake.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) August 27, 2020
Elise Mertens was one of a handful of players who did not take part in any exhibitions once lockdowns started easing around the world, and it was a slow start with an opening loss in Palermo, but things caught fire in Prague where she reached the final.
She has since made a very successful transition to the fast courts in New York with just one set dropped on her way to the semi-final.
It has been a bit more of a battle at times for Osaka who has had to come from a set down twice to get this far, after coming in on a wildcard.
Osaka has been working on being a lot more positive, together with working hard on adding a lot more structure to her game. Add to that her trademark ball-striking and attacking play and the Belgian will have her work cut out.
From the back of the court, expect her to go toe-to-toe with Osaka, but she is of course very adept at coming in to the net to finish things off, but Osaka’s problem solving in times of stress where perhaps previously she would have been wearing her hear on her sleeve has been very impressive this week.
Prediction: Osaka in three sets.
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