Sunday’s final at the China Open in Beijing will be contested between the number three seed, Agnieszka Radwanska and the number 11 seed, Johanna Konta. The Brit will be on the rise in the rankings next week by virtue of her brilliant week in Beijing.
Konta will crack the world’s top ten on Monday after a superb semi-final win over Madison Keys, 7-6(1) 4-6 6-4. It was an engaging contest with plenty of momentum shifts through the first two sets and a half. Konta lost her way midway through the second set but on the whole, played a superb match. She wasn’t overrawed by Keys’s power, kept things solid and also tried to change up the rhythm with drop shots – they didn’t always look great but she managed to make them work.
Konta looked to have the edge in the third set but Keys’s serve got her out some of tricky situations, as well as Konta not delivering on the return. Konta held convincingly at 4-4 and then broke through in the next game. It was a disappointing end from Keys but Konta’s subtle pressure finally told. The Brit has not only had a superb week but a superb season. I honestly questioned whether she could build on the incredible run during the second half of 2015, but she’s pushed on magnificently well. Konta has been very reliable and her mental toughness has continued to excel, now one of her strongest assets. Huge kudos to Jo!
In the second semi-final Radwanska fended off a valiant charge from Elina Svitolina, fighting back from 3-5 down in the first set and winning in straights for the fourth consecutive time in their head-to-head, 7-6(3) 6-3. Despite the loss, this was a very encouraging display from Svitolina who was just two points away from the first set and served for it at *5-4. She made so many dashes into the net and she came away with pretty decent stats of 21 out of 31 net points won. Svitolina has some nice touch at the net and I really hope she’ll endeavour to keep using this tactic and being more aggressive.
While Svitolina put together some brilliant points, especially in serving at *5-6, she still lacks that killer instinct in the crucial moments. Radwanska, who started sluggish, found her intensity when down *3-5 *0-30 and played a superb tiebreak to take the first set. Svitolina has always been a solid player but the way she has played up till now has a ceiling; if she can show more aggressive intent then no doubt she will give herself more chances. As I wrote last night, it won’t just happen overnight but this was probably her most positive tournament of the year so far.
Radwanska looked to be home and dry with a *3-0 double break lead in the second set but Svitolina battled back into contention with two straight games. The Ukrainian had break points to get back on level terms but Radwanska found some big serves to eventually hold. Svitolina had a gutsy hold to get within one game of Radwanska again but the number three seed tightened her grip on the match and clinched a hard fought win in one hour and 43 minutes.
Head-to-head record: In their only previous match, Radwanska came from a set down to beat Konta, 6-7(1) 6-4 6-0 in the third round of Cincinnati earlier this summer.
Interesting stat(s): Radwanska is into her third Beijing final and won the tournament in 2011. Radwanska has won her last five finals on tour, a record stretching back to last year’s Eastbourne final. Konta’s won her last three finals and prevailed in her only WTA final in Stanford earlier this year, holding firm at the end after a shaky second set to see off Venus Williams, 7-5 5-7 6-2.
Final thoughts: I’m intrigued to see how this one pans out… Konta continues to impress with both her game and her mental resilience. She played a superb match against Keys but will face a completely different challenge in Radwanska having faced big hitters through the last four rounds. It’s not been vintage Radwanska this week but she’s still reached the final without dropping a set.
I think this could be a really close match. Konta took a set off Radwanska in Cincy and I think she has a huge bank of confidence right now. Radwanska will need to be on her game and dig deep to win this final…