In a repeat fourth round match from last year’s Australian Open, Johanna Konta will take on Ekaterina Makarova for a place in the quarter-finals. In 2016, Makarova was the higher ranked player but a lot has changed in the last year…
Konta was dealt one of the toughest possible draws but she has handled it so, so well, booking her place in the last 16 of the Australian Open with a terrific 6-3 6-1 victory over Caroline Wozniacki in the third round. Early signs were that this would be a very competitive match with Wozniacki’s defence forcing errors from Konta’s side. The Brit began to settle down midway through the set as she served three aces to level up at 3-3. Konta went onto win 10 of the last 11 games of the match, overwhelming Wozniacki in a speedy second set.
Konta’s persistent aggression coupled with a stellar serve sealed an eighth consecutive victory and her 11th on the tour in 2017. The serve continues to impress, particularly the second serve, which is a huge asset to have on the WTA tour. The return also flummoxed Wozniacki – Konta wasn’t necessarily hitting return winners but the consistent depth immediately put Wozniacki under pressure. I’m running out of superlatives for Jo!
Makarova’s record at the Australian Open is nothing short of extraordinary as she once again booked her place in the last 16. The number 30 seed let slip a 6-2 *4-0 *40-30 lead, but rebounded to win in three sets against Dominika Cibulkova, 6-2 6-7(3) 6-3, for her best win in two years. Despite admitting to getting tight in her post-match interview, it was still impressive that she managed to close out Cibulkova, who won 20 three set matches in 2016.
Head-to-head record: As alluded to above, Konta and Makarova have history at the Australian Open after Konta won an extra-time thriller last year, 4-6 6-4 8-6 in three hours and four minutes. It was a superb match and one that barely missed my top 20 in the countdown at the end of the season. Konta leads the overall head-to-head, 3-0 with her most recent win in Eastbourne last year, 7-6(5) 6-4.
Interesting stat: Makarova is into the fourth round of the Australian Open for the seventh consecutive year. Her record at Melbourne (2 QFs and 1 SF) and Eastbourne (6 QFs and 1 title) have warranted her with the Bourne-GOAT tag! Credit to Ben Rothenberg for the stats below.
Final thoughts: Konta and Makarova have shared some tough battles but the Brit has managed to defeat Makarova three times in her favoured Bourne surroundings! The pair have similar games in that they are solid off both wings and have a decent serve but at this moment in time, I think that Konta does everything a little bit better. The Brit has dropped her serve just once during this tournament and her rhythm on return has been immense all year. While Konta has played a lot of tennis to start 2017, it will likely take a substantial physical and mental effort for Makarova to rebound from her gruelling third round win over Cibulkova and challenge an in-form Konta.