By Ros Satar

  • Johanna Konta v Serena Williams [6] | H2H: Williams leads 1-0
  • Heather Watson v Claire Liu [WC] | First Meeting
SAN JOSÉ, USA – With both top Brits Johanna Konta and Heather Watson having taken a tumble down the rakings, can they come back strong in the hard court season?

 

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Johanna Konta v Serena Williams [6] | H2H: Williams leads 1-0

With huge points to defend in the first half of the year, it has been a bit of a rollercoaster for the British No. 1 Johanna Konta. During the clay court season we began to see small signs of the kind of play that saw a breakout season for the Brit in 2016, but despite making a second final in Nottingham at the start of the clay court season, her grass court season petered out, as did her ranking.

Serena Williams in the first round of Wimbledon 2018

Serena Williams of the United States in action during her first round match at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships Grand Slam tournament

She comes up against a rejuvenated Serena Williams who is soaring back up the rankings after making the Wimbledon final. The last time they met, Williams coasted past the Brit on the way to winning the Australian Open title, while pregnant with her daughter.

Williams return has been a little up and down, with injury halting what was a solid run at Roland Garros but she came undone pretty spectacularly in the final against a very determined Angelique Kerber.

Konta will have to dial into her serve from the off – Williams is one of the best returners on the tour and Konta has often brought the other elements of her game together when her serve is firing well. She has worked a lot more in coming forward, and while her drive volleys are often convincing winners, she still is working on improving her finesse and feel with more canny pick-ups at the net.

It is a huge ask for the Brit, and a lot will depend on whether Williams starts with a punch or slowly.

Prediction: Williams in three sets

 

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Heather Watson v Claire Liu [WC] | First Meeting

Heather Watson in the first round of the Nature Valley International, WTA Eastbourne 2018

Heather Watson in the first round of the Nature Valley International, WTA Eastbourne 2018 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Heather Watson’s fortunes have been even more tumultuous this year, and she finds herself up against a strong up-comer from the US in Claire Liu. The American swings free as she has absolutely no pressure on her at the moment, and she even gave Kerber pause for thought at Wimbledon, taking a set off the eventual champion.

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Watson has a decent aggressive game, backed with the ability to play a lot more defensively with patience to build up her points. Liu can also match her for defensive capabilities and while she has a solid backhand, it is possibly to put her forehand under pressure. Watson usually has great court smarts, but her lack of consistency has really shaken her confidence.

Prediction: Watson in three sets.

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