A little bit misleading for an opening stat. Konta beat the Belgian twice in their lower tier ITF days, and quite comfortably to boot, but Flipkens has the most recent win at tour level. It is not a bad opener though, and Konta’s confidence will be soaring after her win over world No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska.
This is actually a match up to savour – Osaka is great to watch, and Konta had the measure of her at the US Open qualies in 2015. Both have since come on in leaps and bounds obviously, and really this should be winnable for Konta, but we might expect a stretch to three sets.
The challenges for Konta start mounting at this point. Wozniacki’s defence to attack strategy will test her movement around the court and her head-space. Injuries have set Wozniacki back a little over the last few years but she can grind a match out so Konta will need to expect a work out.
While Konta has sharpened up her match teeth in the last two weeks, Cibulkova comes in a little match-win shy – just two wins, and none back to back in the warm-up events. Cibulkova is an aggressive player which is probably more on Konta’s wave-length but she is also a former finalist and knows how to pitch for the big occasion.
The biggest hurdle to emulating her run in 2017 comes in the form of the deposed world No. 1. It will be time to see if her now famed approach to playing each point and living in the moment comes good, and she doesn’t allow herself to be swayed by the Williams history.
Going on ranking alone – she should face Radwanska once more in the final stretch towards a maiden Slam final – but we suspect it could be Karolina Pliskova that would be standing in her way.
Her win over the Pole was a landmark for Konta, and it showed that she could maintain a rock solid level of play throughout an entire match. Whether it is Radwanska or Pliskova – she will have be at lights out tennis mode once more.
Konta’s incredible run last year ended at the hands of the eventual champion, but their next meeting was a brutal battering in the Olympic semi-final where Kerber prevailed for the loss of just three games. The pressure is on for the two-time Slam champion to defend her first title but with a draw this wide open on the women’s side, could we see a new maiden champion?
The Australian Open takes place between 16-29 January, with the bottom half of the draw scheduled to start on Tuesday.
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