By Ros Satar at the Nature Valley Classic, Birmingham

  • Johanna Konta [7] def. Anett Kontaveit 6-4 6-2
  • Konta [7] v Jelena Ostapenko | Konta leads H2H 2-0
BIRMINGHAM, UK – British No. 1 Johanna Konta faces a confident Jelena Ostapenko as the Latvian feels she is ready to do damage on grass.

 

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Johanna Konta [7] def. Anett Kontaveit 6-4 6-2

It was all eyes on the British No. 1 Johanna Konta as she returned to the court after her Roland Garros heroics. On paper this had all the hallmarks of being a tough battle to start her grass-court season. Previous encounters with the Nigel Sears-trained Anett Kontaveit had been tense three setters, and Kontaveit had showed some solid form at the start of the grass court season.

Konta was the first to strike a blow with a break, but found herself pegged back a few gaes later, rallying immediately with another harder-fought break before serving out the first set to love.

The second set started well for Konta with an immediate break, which she added to in the penultimate game before serving out for a spot in the second round.

Konta, who is a big draw for Nature Valley – one of her sponsors, wisely pulled out of Nottingham having had a long and ultimately productive clay court season and enjoyed time off and time with her blue dachshund Bono.

She said, after the match: “I took about four days off. I started training again on the Wednesday I think, it was the Wednesday, Wednesday or Thursday. And yeah, I mean, it’s always a good problem to have, to have a quick turnaround, so I think I look at it from that perspective more than anything (smiling).

“I enjoyed those few days off. I got to see my dog who I haven’t seen before, till before Madrid actually. So I hadn’t seen him in a little while. So, yeah, it was just enjoying that, enjoying being home, doing washing, things like that (laughing).”

In terms of her performance, it was very much back to business, as she joins the tour again one tournament down in an already short grass-court season.

She continued: “I thought it was a consistent performance throughout the match and nothing about it was easy, that’s for sure (smiling). But I definitely was pleased even when there were some tight moments in certain games, or certain points, I just enjoyed myself being out there, being on the grass, and just thought I competed.

“I wouldn’t say like I’m fully adapted (laughing) by any means. But I think that will come with time and come with matches, but it’s a step in the right direction. It was nice to get some court time on the grass because the girls that maybe have had more time maybe haven’t played as much on the grass because the weather hasn’t been too kind so the fact to be able to play on the grass and play a match, just really happy with that.”

 

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Johanna Konta [7] v Jelena Ostapenko | Konta leads H2H 2-0

Jelena Ostapenko after the first round of the Nature Valley Classic, Birmingham 2019

Jelena Ostapenko after the first round of the Nature Valley Classic, Birmingham 2019 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Next up is the 2016 quarter-finalist Jelena Ostapenko. The Latvian has already had a challenging time here with the airline losing the bags of her and her hitting partner, giving them even less time to prepare here.

She told reporters: “They arrived like on Sunday, around midday or even later. I was really stressed, first time ever it happened to me that my bags didn’t arrive, they just disappeared, and my hitting partner’s bag didn’t arrive yet, so they just get lost somewhere.

“But yeah, it’s not fun that when you give your racquets and everything, you check-in and you don’t have, you arrive at practice and you don’t have your racquets, your clothes, nothing.

“It never happened to me before, so I was really stressed (laughing).”

However, perhaps the lack of time to prepare worked on her favour, as she swiftly despatched last year’s Junior Wimbledon champion Iga Swiatek for the loss of just two games.

“I think for me the less time I have the better it is because I’m more focussed and I love to play on grass and I also had good results on grass and I think it fits my game pretty well, and on grass the one who is playing more aggressive is going to win probably.”

Of course, with the prospect of playing the home crowd favourite – and the home crowd itself, Ostapenko was characteristically bullish.

“I think I’m getting better, especially now on grass. Today I felt really good on court and I felt that grass is something that I really love to play the surface and, yeah, I think on grass I will get my form back.

“I played her a couple of times and also last year in Eastbourne on grass. And I think we always had three-set matches. I mean she’s a great player, she plays very well on grass and she is good form now, but grass is one of my favourite surfaces and I am going to try to enjoy it.”

It might be more who can adapt better to a couple of days of possible unsettled weather over the next couple of days. Konta looked good but acknowledged that she still had to adapt to the conditions, and their matches have always been quite competitive.

Konta will look to make good use of solid serving and will have to be prepared to be moved around a lot. With the conditions likely to be quite slippery, Konta might be a little tentative at the start and while she can cover the court well, her agility might not match that of the more compact Ostapenko.

However, Ostapenko can still be quite error prone, and if Konta can lift her game to the levels we have seen in the past, this could be another swift victory.

Prediction: Konta in three sets.

Konta and Ostapenko are scheduled not before 2:30pm BST.

 

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