By Ros Satar

  • Johanna Konta [7] def. Ajla Tomljanovic [4] 6-2 7-6(7)
  • Rare straight sets victory and will face Maria Sakkari for her first clay court tour title
RABAT, MOROCCA – Johanna Konta will look to cap a tough but triumphant week on the clay with her first tour level title when she faces Maria Sakkari in the Rabat final.

 

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Johanna Konta [7] def. Ajla Tomljanovic [4] 6-2 7-6(7)

As expected, booking a spot in her first tour-level clay court final came with a battle attached, but for the first time in six matches, British No. 1 Johanna Konta came through in straight sets, as she defeated the No. 4 seed Ajla Tomljanovic.The start could not have gone any better for the Brit as she broke the Aussie in the first game and swiftly built up a 4-1 lead with a double break cushion. Even though she was pegged back immediately, she struck back straight away to regain the advantage before serving out for the first set comfortably.

It was a far more competitive second set from Tomljanovic’s point of view with just one break point chance each on their way to a momentum-swinging tie-break. For a spell neither seemed to be able to consistently hang on to their serves, with a set-point coming and going for Tomljanovic, before Konta made good on her second match-point, to book a spot in her first WTA Tour-level clay court final.

 

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Konta [7] v Maria Sakkari [6] | H2H: Konta leads 2-0

Maria Sakkari in the quarter-finals of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, WTA San Jose 2018

Maria Sakkari in the quarter-finals of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, WTA San Jose 2018 | Anita Stahl

It will be a second meeting this year against Greece’s Maria Sakkari after a drama-filled tense three-setter at the Fed Cup Group tie this year in Bath. Konta had to come from a set down to turn things around against Sakkari, in a match where perhaps dodgy line-calls took more of the glory than they should have.

Their previous meeting was a fairly dominant performance on grass at Wimbledon in 2017 so clay may prove to be a far better leveller. For a start Sakkari has not dropped a set this week, and although she had a first round exit in Istanbul, she started her clay court season brightly enough in Charleston with a run to the quarter-finals.

A lot is made of Konta’s lack of affinity for the dirt, perhaps unfairly as she has won three titles at the lower ITF tiers on the dirt, and made one final, so it is not as though she has never played or even done well on it, but somehow the transition to the main tour proved to be a lot tougher for her.

However, Konta is nothing if not determined in her attempts to add more variety and ability to her game – as we have seen with the bloody-mindedness at times to get drop-shots and volleys in when she can to change up her game.

What has been more impressive is that she has also had the good sense to revert to what does work for her – aggressive and controlled play from the back of the court and the times she has stuck to that game plan, together with her serve holding the other aspects of her game, she has seen the results.

For Sakkari, it will be a chance for her to have another crack at a WTA level title, having finished runner up in San José last year. The Greek can play a patient game, which lends itself to the clay, constructing her points from the base-lie before waiting to punish a short ball to finish the point. She plays in a classic clay court style, and if Konta wants the win, she might have to gear up for another three-set ‘Houdini’ trick.

Prediction: Sakkari in three sets.

 

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