A repeat of the Australian Open semi-final will see Angelique Kerber play Johanna Konta in the quarter-finals of Rio 2016 as the hunt for the medals hots up…
Konta survived a three hour and nine minute marathon with Svetlana Kuznetsova, battling back for a superb, 3-6 7-5 7-5 victory. Kuznetsova had her chances to win this in two but Konta produced some remarkable tennis with her back against the wall. A steady and solid Kuznetsova went up a set and a break as an erratic, Konta made a stream of unforced errors. Konta reeled off four straight games in the second set with some more measured play but failed to consolidate the break lead. As Kuznetsova gained the ascendancy once more, Konta showed terrific resilience to save a duo of break points down *15-40 at both 4-4 and 5-5. A pair of bold drop shot winners helped Konta seal the second set as Kuznetsova buckled on serve.
In a frenetic third set, Konta won three straight games to bring up an opportunity to serve for the match at *5-3. Kuznetsova hung on with some tremendous defence from the baseline and then leveled up at 5-5 with Konta producing four errors long. It looked like the match was heading in the favour of Kuznetsova as she chalked up three break points at 5-5… yet, Konta was not done with this one! With some brave and bold shotmaking, Konta clawed her way to the hold with five straight points. In an exciting final game, Konta sealed a magnificent win on her fourth match point.
While there were shaky moments from both players, Konta’s ability to reset and go after her shots when it really counted were the difference. It was a compelling contest and without doubt, one of the most memorable matches of the week so far.
Kerber booked her place in the quarter-finals with a 6-0 7-5 victory over Sam Stosur. It was a mostly efficient display from Kerber; the first set was much tighter than the 6-0 scoreline suggested as five of the six games went to deuce. Stosur got on the board early in the second set but Kerber remained in control, drawing errors from her Aussie opponent. Kerber failed to serve out the match at the first time of asking at *5-4 with Stosur playing an absolute blinder including a trio of stunning drop shots. However, she couldn’t back it up with a hold as Kerber refocused to win the last two games and the match in straights.
Head-to-head record: In their only previous match, Kerber beat Konta in Melbourne, 7-5 6-2.
Interesting stat: Konta’s remarkable year continues as she is into her 7th quarter-final of 2016. Since Wimbledon last year, Konta has now compiled a 47-12 W-L record on hard courts.
Final thoughts: I’ve run out of superlatives to describe Konta’s rise to relevance and the improvements she has made to her game, particularly mentally. The win over Kuznetsova was yet further validation of the strides she has made on the WTA tour in the past year. Kerber though presents another step up in quality and the German player is looking super confident, as demonstrated by the win over Bouchard who was becoming somewhat of a nemesis after three straight losses. Furthermore, the brutal nature of Konta’s third round win will be tough for her to back up, both physically and mentally.
Going for Kerber in straights…