Konta’s schedule shows her skipping WTA Stuttgart, and she can next be expected to play at the next two Premier Mandatory events in Madrid and Rome. It is safe to say clay is not her favoured surface and she has a woeful 2-4 record last year. On the flip side, she has next to nothing to defend on the dirt, so if she can win a couple of rounds here and there in Madrid and Rome it could serve her well for when the grass court points need to be defended.
Now the new British No. 2 Naomi Broady will open her account against America’s CiCi Bellis. The 18-year-old made a lot of waves in Dubai where she took out fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska on the way to the quarter-final, but only made a showing in the opener in Indian Wells (she went out in the first round) so we are yet to see whether her spirited run that saw land just outside the Top 50 will be her catapult for more ranking spots.
She will certainly have a lot of confidence in her ranking when she faces Broady. We can expect the poor yellow fuzzies to have the covers battered off them. Both play aggressive tennis and certainly Bellis has fairly consistent shots of both wings to back it up.
Yet Broady’s extra inches make her serve and forehand combo quite a challenge for the youngster, and if the Brit can score some extra free points off her own serve, she is in with a good chance.
There is a real hope that the feel-good factor that should accompany Konta’s run back into the World Top 10 can permeate down to the rest of the Brits. Heather Watson is trying not to put pressure on herself anymore to chase the rankings, but hopefully the memories of a great win here last year will spur her on to find some confidence in her game.
All too often she finds a way to either tough out a match if she is coming from behind and then fades away when it comes to closing. Coach-less at the moment, you feel she needs that motivation to keep finding ways to add to her game.
And it is not as if she hasn’t changed elements of an already very good all-court defensive set of skills. She added more pep and aggression to her serve as she recognised she needed to earn more free points at the start of games, but she is a good mover around the court and has good court smarts, when they work.
In terms of experience, Watson has this in bucket-loads. Nina Stojanovic had a flurry of form in Shenzhen in the season opener, coming through qualifying to reach the quarter-final, but since then as failed to impress either in qualifying on the main tour events and even bowed out after just one round of the Shenzhen $60K in March.
Having a chance to go after the defending champion though will see her swinging free. Watson admitted to us in Indian Wells it was easier said than done to put the outside pressures out of her mind – this will be a test, and we predict a rocky ride.
Prediction: Watson in three sets.
Broady starts her campaign not before 1pm (7pm BST), with Watson to be scheduled on Tuesday.
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