NOTTINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM – Johanna Konta gets a bit of revenge for last year’s defeat as she beats Donna Vekic and sets up clash with Ashleigh Barty in the Nottingham final.
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Johanna Konta  defeats Donna Vekic  6-2 6-3
The last twelve months have been particularly difficult for the British No.1 Johanna Konta, but she has made big moves during this week in Nottingham and scored her biggest win in some time as she beat defending champion Donna Vekic in a convincing straight-sets win.
The match was set up to be a huge battle, Vekic won their last meeting in Nottingham, in last year’s final, where she won in three-sets, while Konta got a bit of revenge when they met in the Wimbledon second round a few weeks after.
The big question mark going into this match was how Vekic was feeling physically. The Croatian had battled with an ongoing lower-back problem in her first round match and pulled out of doubles the day before and she never really looked totally comfortable and at ease with her condition in this match-up.
The British No.1 struck gold straight away and made huge blows early on in the rallies, which really set the tone for the remainder of the match. Vekic quickly gave away the first break with a double fault on break point down, but it was the pressure that Konta was putting her under on the return that drew all six of the Croatian’s double faults all match.
Konta broke for a second time and served very well to serve the set out with not much resistance from the defending champion as Vekic called for off-court treatment due to her injury struggles. It looked like Vekic was close to throwing in the towel, but heavy rain soon appeared which gave Vekic a bit of respite and time to gather herself and handle her emotions.
Vekic had more opportunities to break in the second set and did just that to momentarily save the match to break for 3-3, but then went on to serve yet another double fault on break point down in the following game and Konta made sure she did not give her another avenue into the match and dominated from then on.
The most pleasing parts of Konta’s game this week has been the improvements she is making on her big weaknesses. Her volleying for most of the week has stood strong in some of the big moments in matches and her sometimes inconsistent forehand has been hit aggressively but consistently in Nottingham. It was actually Vekic’s strong forehand side that lost its way in the key parts of the match, while Konta competed very well and fought through regardless.
Johanna Konta  vs Ashleigh Barty  H2H: Tied at 1-1
Konta’s opponent in the 2018 Nottingham final is Australia’s Ashleigh Barty. Konta beat Barty in the quarter-final on her way to last year’s final run, but Barty has improved substantially since then and is looking very strong on the grass courts and says as much.
Barty’s a very crafty player that tries to use every shot in her toolbox to frustrate her opponent on court. She can up the pace of the rally with her forehand side, but her backhand slice responds so well to these slick grass courts and that is something that she mostly wins matches by as players struggle to find answers to that single weapon.
The important areas to Konta’s game lies on the return of serve. Barty has been serving extremely well all week and has given away only been broken on two occasions this tournament, so Konta really has to make sure that not only does she return big, but make a high percentage of those returns, because she most likely will not get a plethora of break point chances against the Australian if she is in a positive serving rhythm.
I think Konta may lose out in this particular match. Barty is now an established Top-20 player, who is gaining confidence week after week and should just about come through in the final.
Prediction: Barty in three sets
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