Johanna Konta has more than erased any memories of faltering season starts in Shenzhen this time around. Having never won back to back matches in the season opener, she has had her work cut out since cruising through the first round.
She had to come from a set down against Vania King, and weathered a barrage of serves and battering ground-strokes from Kristyna Pliskova before finally edging a win in the decider.
The pair started competitively before Konta took the advantage in the first set converting on her first break point chance in the match. She kept the pressure on Pliskova, looking to break for the first set bit this time was fended off by the Czech, before closing out the first set on her own serve.
Pliskova hung toe-to-toe with Konta and neither of them had a sniff at each other’s serves until the tie-break – which was a roller-coaster to say the least. Pliskova stole a minibreak straight back, breaking Konta twice to set up the first of two set points. Konta fought back as they traded match and set points.
Two match-points came and went for the Brit before losing 13-11 as Pliskova was rewarded for her tenacity on her fifth set point to level the match. Some calming words of advice from Wim Fissette coupled with what looked like some physical issues for Pliskova, and the tables turned.
While Pliskova (as her sister) employs some fierce firepower – her movement, especially punctuated by doubling over from time to time, played into Konta’s hands as she left the Czech standing stock still at times with accurately placed winners in the corners.
In her on-court interview after the win, Konta said: “It’s a well-known fact that she and her twin sister are among the best servers on tour so I knew going into the match that I would have a tough challenge on her service game. I really just tried to neutralize her first and second serve as much as possible and tried to get myself into those games and work hard to create some chances”
She continued: “My pre-season was tough and I worked very hard but the work is ongoing. I think I’ve done a good job of competing from the very first ball of the first match. I’m enjoying playing, I’m enjoying being back at an event and competing, so I’ll do my best to stay here as long as possible.”
[Quotes: Shenzhen Open Press Release]
Johanna Konta v Katerina Siniakova – First Meeting
This will be an intriguing match-up. Where in 2016 the talk was on the calm demeanour Konta likes to create for herself within matches and her build-up, Katerina Siniakova wore her heart on her sleeve many times – tears not often far from the surface for the Czech. She describes herself as an all-court player and has shown a pleasing sense of maturity at the turn of the year, most notable taking down Simona Halep, the 2015 champion in just the second round.
She told WTATennis.com after that win that her confidence is on the up, and where once she would be a wreck if the pressure got to her, she knuckled down to get the job done.
She said: “I’m really happy that I won for me, because it was a very tough match,” Siniakova said. “When I walked onto court I was feeling that I could win and I just wanted to show my best. I was feeling a little bit of pressure in the final set and I’m so happy that I manged to come through and win the match.”
Siniakova added: “Of course I feel good on the court; I worked a lot in the off-season and I can say that my confidence is growing and I hope it will continue like this in the next round.”
All the pressure will be on Konta – on paper she will be expected to win, but she has had a couple of tough matches in a row, and it can always be a challenge facing someone for the first time. Siniakova will no doubt swing for the fences and we can expect her to try and move Konta about – but this is no guarantee. Konta moves well and can be nice and aggressive off high-sitting drive volleys.
Prediction: Konta in three sets.
Konta and Siniakova are scheduled on Centre Court at 12pm (4am GMT).
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