It was an unusually slow start for the Brit, who struggled to cope with Vesnina’s ball placement and drive in the first set, immediately under pressure from Vesnina, saving three break points until she was broken to love for the Russian to take the advantage.
Some calming words from coach Esteban Carril reversed the tide of momentum for Vesnina, as Konta’s serve stats improved, breaking the Russian twice to level the match.
But her trials were not quite over. Despite breaking early, Vesnina seemed to pick up a second wind, hanging in with Konta and working up to the form she had in the first set, breaking the Brit back to lead up to a deciding tie-break.
Despite losing a mini-break, Konta was quick to break back, and as nerves hit the Russian, Konta built up three match points, needing just the one to book a place in the fourth round, alongside British No. 1 Heather Watson.
Never assume that on paper ranking means a win, especially after this battle. But if there is any sign that Konta’s ability to keep calm in the face of on-court adversity, her match against Vesnina was proof.
She faces one of the more ‘unique’ players on the tour. Niculescu’s slash and cut forehand is well known on the tour, and she is a tricky player to come across. Especially after almost a two-and-a-half hour battle.
There is no rest for the Brit and she is back in action on Monday, and the unpredictability of a Niculescu shot is a new conundrum for the Brit. The Romanian halted her progress in Nottingham last year, when Konta was in receipt of wildcards throughout the grass court season, and was actually the start of the player we see know. The momentum through that swing, and the US Open yielded the best results thus far with the Australian Open semi-final.
What she can expect from Niculescu is … the unpredictable. Niculescu will look to move her around the court, and can do exceptional damage with her volleys and dropshots – she has such variety, this will be another huge battle.
This will be a tough one to advance from, but if she can muster the same drive as she did against Vesnina, it is winnable.
Prediction: Konta in three sets.
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