In the most anticipated match of the 2017 Australian Open so far, the number 9 and 17 seeds, Johanna Konta and Caroline Wozniacki will collide in a blockbuster third rounder on Saturday.
Konta was dealt a dicey draw in Melbourne but has handled her first two rounds impeccably. In the first round she overturned a loss to Kirsten Flipkens in Monterrey last year and on Thursday, defeated the dangerous, Naomi Osaka, 6-4 6-2 in her first outing of the year on Rod Laver Arena. The first set was very close with some fast-paced rallies and Osaka going toe-to-toe with the Brit.
Konta was sloppy on a pair of break points she chalked up at 2-2 and then had to fend off one of her own in a pivotal game serving at 3-4. Osaka went *just* long with the return before Konta’s serve came to the rescue. The Brit quickly brought up three break points in the next game at 4-4; while she missed her first two opportunities, Konta stuck to the basics on the third with a safe return in court followed closely by a backhand winner to break.
Konta served out the first set to 15 and then settled into the second set, serving well behind both the first and second serve, and coming forward more with intent. Osaka’s serve became more vulnerable as Konta began to zone in on the return. The Brit finished with stats of 22 winners to 14 unforced errors, and dropped just four points behind her first serve during the 69-minute contest.
Wozniacki has yet to be tested in her first two matches with wins over Arina Rodionova (6-1 6-2) and Donna Vekic (6-1 6-3). The Dane has posted some impressive stats through her first two matches with a combined 47 winners to 26 unforced errors. I remember the days when Wozniacki would barely hit more than 15 winners in a lengthy match and it’s always encouraging to see the Dane go for more, particularly on the backhand side.
Head-to-head record: FIRST TIME MATCH-UP ALERT… the pair have never played before on the WTA tour.
Interesting stat: Wozniacki is into the third round of the Australian Open for the first time since 2014. The Dane had held a curious record in Melbourne between 2011 and 2016 where her result worsened by a round each year. What beckons in 2017?!
2011 – Semi-finals
2012 – Quarter-finals
2013 – 4th round
2014 – 3rd round
2015 – 2nd round
2016 – 1st round
2017 – ???
Final thoughts: This should be a fascinating contest between two different game styles. While i’m excited for the match, a part of me is disappointed that they are meeting so early. Konta has been sensational in 2017 and she has picked up right where she left off from in Sydney. Her serve and return have both been on song and most impressively, she’s developing a knack of producing her best tennis on the pressure points.
Wozniacki has been playing some decent tennis and I like her position in this match as the underdog. However, if the Brit can execute the aggressive gameplan that has served her so well in 2017, then i’d expect Konta to continue to navigate her way through this minefield of a draw.