MIAMI, USA – Can Johanna Konta beat her second Belgian in a row? She faces Elise Mertens who has been in solid form this year.
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Johanna Konta  def. Kirsten Flipkens 6-4 6-3
It has been a challenging few months to the year for British No. 1 Johanna Konta. A hip injury (which has been a bit of an epidemic amongst the Brits!) halted her Brisbane campaign, and her Sydney defence ended in the opening round, so there had been high hopes for another solid run into the second week of the Australian Open.
It was not to be though, as she stumbled in the second round, and although she picked up a couple of wins in Doha and one in Dubai, it could well be termed a shock exit in Indian Wells, where we spoke to her.
She is nothing, if not consistent on message, and there was the spark of the more formidable Konta we were used to seeing in 2016 on show in her Miami opener. Kirsten Flipkens is a player of note, who has a fantastic variety to her shots and can cause all kinds of issues for players, and this match was not without its mini-battles from time to time.
Konta’s serve was on point though, and when her serve is firing well, all other aspects tend to fall into place for the Brit. When she went for the break, she did it decisively, especially after five break points had been saved by the Belgian in her previous service game, which made Konta’s break to love seem even more forceful.
Flipkens made Konta earn the first set after deflecting two set points. It was another break to love at almost the same point in the second set that put Konta in the driving seat. All in all I was a far more confident display than we had seen of late – the Brit faced just one break point against her over the whole match, delivering the final blow as a break for the match.
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Konta v Elise Mertens  – First Meeting
This match is a completely different kettle of fish, and has all the hallmarks of another testing outing for Konta. Elise Mertens has been impressive this year. She (and Angelique Kerber) delivered one of the matches of the Hopman Cup at the start of the year, before Mertens went on to win the Hobart title.
She ably backed that up with a run to the Australian Open semi-final but since then she has had a couple of wobbles, in the Middle East swing and now the Sunshine Double, she has yet to pick up back to back wins.
As noted above – if Konta has her serve behind her, she plays with far more confidence. In her previous match her second serve also looked pretty solid, and she certainly valued the player-focused insight that new coach Michael Joyce brings to their partnership – so this is an ideal time to see that come to the fore.
Mertens has a great all-court attacking game and she can be devastating either from the baseline or at the net. This is the danger for Konta, who can trade with Mertens blow for blow at the back of the court, but at the net lacks the feel that Mertens has and for now, anyway, her volleys take the form of cross fingers and hope.
This will be a test, and it should do Konta’s confidence no end of good if she can grind through a win here.
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