WTA Beijing, Semi-Final Preview for Saturday: Madison Keys v Johanna Konta

Konta

The first of the semi-finals at the China Open in Beijing has huge ramifications for not only the Race to Singapore but also the rankings as Madison Keys and Johanna Konta go head-to-head for the first time since 2010.

Keys booked her place in the semi-finals of a Premier Mandatory tournament for the first time in her career with a rip-roaring 6-3 6-7(2) 7-6(5) victory over Petra Kvitova in two hours and 55 minutes. Keys snapped Kvitova’s glittering eight match winning streak through Asia, holding her nerve at the very end – this one really could have swung either way. And for pretty much the entire match, Keys was always ahead on the scoreboard. Kvitova couldn’t take her chances on return in the first set as Keys hit just ONE unforced error (!!!) in the first set. I don’t expect to see that stat ever again…

Kvitova looked a step slow in her movement and wasn’t as potent on return as she has been in recent matches although that had something to do with the Keys serve. The American player was three times up a break in the second set but Kvitova showed a lot of heart to force the tiebreak. Keys failed to serve out the match at 6-3 *6-5 with Kvitova breaking back on a fierce backhand return winner. Keys played a poor tiebreak with Kvitova drawing away to win the second set after one of the points of the match up 3-1 in the tiebreak; the pair duked it out from the back of the court with some monstrous groundstrokes before Kvitova reacted well to a drop shot and fired a winner cross-court.

After both Kvitova and Keys won a trio of games at the start of the third set, Keys secured a pair of plucky holds to stay in front – she saved three break points at 3-3 and four at 4-4 including recovering a *0-40 deficit. Into a third set tiebreak and with the match finely balanced on a tightrope at 5-5, Keys made her move with a bold backhand and a big serve. The grey screen on the TV coverage came just at the wrong time! Considering the circumstances, it was one of Keys’s best wins of the year.

In a baffling match that followed, Konta scored a virtual double bagel, coming from 0-4 down in the first set against Zhang Shuai to win, 6-4 6-0. It was an odd result because a lot of games in the first set were close. Zhang reeled off 13 consecutive points to claim the double break lead in the opener but Konta, slowly but surely, shored up her game and placed more first serves in.

The Brit came up trumps on the big points – she hit a return winner to break and get back on level terms at 3-4 and then saved a break point in the next game with a big first serve. Zhang even had a game point at 4-4 but Konta rallied once more and broke with a forehand winner. Zhang won just 11 points in the second set as Konta booked a KK meeting with Keys in the semi-finals.

Head-to-head record: In their only previous match in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Keys won with a 7-5 first set retirement win over Konta. A lot has changed since then…

Interesting stat: As alluded to above, this is a hugeeee match. A win for Konta will see her crack the top ten for the first time in her career and also boost her chances of qualifying for Singapore. For Keys, her position for the WTA Finals is looking decent and the title in Beijing will officially confirm her place in Singapore. It was announced on Friday that Keys has taken a late wildcard into Linz, while Konta is set to play Hong Kong.

Final thoughts: As has become accustomed with Keys, she’s been streaky through much of Beijing, although she produced a lot of big-shot tennis in her quarter-final against Kvitova. The way that Konta managed to fight back from 0-4 down in the first set against Zhang on Friday speaks volumes about the belief that she has in herself and her game right now. I wonder if the prospect of cracking the top ten will be on the mind for Konta although she’s shown no negative signs with the potential of qualifying for Singapore.

I think this will be a close match – Keys’s game can be overbearing, even when she’s missing a lot of time, so the fact they haven’t played recently could be a shock to the system early on for Konta. Both have toughed out big wins this week but Keys especially has dug herself out of some rather precarious situations. I wonder whether Konta will be able to mix up the play enough to prevent Keys from finding a rhythm on her serve and forehand…

Photo in this post by mootennis.com

5 thoughts on “WTA Beijing, Semi-Final Preview for Saturday: Madison Keys v Johanna Konta

  1. Wow!!! Really good performance by Konta. What I don’t get is why Konta is disliked in social media?? Why is everybody so negative towards her? Has she done anything wrong?
    She totally reminds me of Petko ..I think it is the ‘robotic’ technique 😀 She is playing really good though and earned her place in the Top 10? I like the prospect of having new faces in the Top 10 🙂
    Everybody is asking where’s Maria where’s Vika bla bla bla. Sure, the tour is fancy with them, too. But that doesn’t mean it is boring without them. Faces come and go and sometimes return – or endure forever like Serena 😉 So, IMO no need to act like the tennis world is falling apart if new faces turn up / careers rise / new histories are written.
    I’m constantly following both ATP and WTA since 2011 and I’ve never been bored. I repeat: NEVER.

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    • Agree, Murphy. Noticing a lot of negativity towards Konta but each to their own. I really admire what she’s achieved. And it’s not just because i’m a Brit! I think she’s worked extremely hard and is so tough mentally now. IMO she’s fully deserving of top ten. So reliable right now and been picking up worthy wins all year.

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      • Indeed! It’s all about making the most out of your talent and possibilities. Also, it’s about achieving your goals. Doesn’t matter if there are more talented players out there as long as they don’t make the most out of it! This applies to everything in your life but I feel like it’s perfectly mirrored in sports. Konta definitely is making the most out of it, also Kerber, Cibulkova, CSN, Svitolina, Vinci… all these players with an extremely good work ethic. In contrast to that, there are a lot of under-achievers such as Pavs (we’ve talked about that already) & Lisicki.
        Plus there’s the aspect of mental toughness. Kuznetsova made a statement on point when asked about Kerber saying it’s all about mentality and being the mentally toughest out there. As an example, I think Serena is mentally on point – you just don’t win 22 slams with the right mind set – or Azarenka who won a lot of consecutive matches after her maiden slam.

        on a sidenote: RTS is *heating* up. really do hope Garbi makes it as she won a slam and I hope Serena really turns up!

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      • So much of tennis is mental and being resilient – Konta is a good example. It’s pretty incredible how things have turned around for her in the last years but she deserves the success after all the hard work. I hope she makes Singapore…

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