While looking ahead to her match against Dominika Cibulkova, Johanna Konta admitted she knew she would have to fight for every point, and she was not wrong in a tense affair which saw eight breaks of serve as momentum shifted from side to side throughout.
What was clear was that the same aggressive style Konta brought to her first round match was very much present from the start of this match, breaking early and not panicking when Cibulkova broke straight back. Konta hit back decisively, consolidating to hold the advantage and certainly not looking like she was about to give it up.
The tables turned just a little at the start of the second set, as once more the pair traded breaks but maybe the pivotal moment came as Cibulkova tried to pressure the Brit for a break to go 4-3 up. Staving off three break points put a bit more of a spring in her stop as she was rewarded with her break at the end of the set, serving it out to love.
“I think it was a battle, like you said. She’s notorious being an incredible fighter. I knew going into the match that it was not going to be over until we shook hands.
“I was very aware that I needed to stay calm and really just try to compete, separate each point and compete well in each one. The conditions are quite tough out there. It was very humid. Both of us, I think, sweated our body weight twice over (smiling).”
Konta v Simona Halep  – H2H: 3-3
We can expect a battle royal as the pair renew what has become a little bit of a terse rivalry. Konta beat No. 2 seed Simona Halep in Miami this year coming from a set down, aided and abetted by a Halep meltdown that actually proved to be a turning point for the Romanian.
There was also, of course, the Romanian home tie for a chance to be in the Fed Cup World Group II and while both players do play down everything that happened out there, there was more controversy with a stray crowd in the final game. Halep looked to have been clearly impeded but with umpire Kader Nouni refusing to call a let, Konta romped home to make a second Grand Slam semi-final.
While Halep has been looking fairly solid on court since the heat in Washington saw her retire in the quarter-final, she reached the semi-final in Toronto and looked good on court in her third round match but admitted she was not playing her best tennis.
Halep said: “The match felt quite tough. Was not easy at all. I can say that I’m not playing my best tennis in this moment, but winning, even if I play less good, I think it’s a big plus for me. It gives me a little bit more power, inside power that I can handle it.”
Konta leads their head to head, by a slim margin, and with the World No. 1 spot on the line for the Romanian, the Brit has nothing to lose, and ought to look to swing free.
She said: “I think both of us compete very well. So I think both of us are looking to really not give each other a foothold in the match. She’s an incredible mover, and she makes an incredible amount of balls. You definitely do feel like you’re playing a little bit like against a wall when you play Simona.
“I guess I always just look to try to bring my game to the table, just try to dictate as much as I can, and really take control of the points as much as possible, but also having a massive level of acceptance that she’s going to make me hit a lot of balls and it’s not always going to go my way.
“I think accepting that – not just against her but against the best players in the world – is very important, because not everything is on your racquet.”
Halep’s play is not all that dissimilar to Cibulkova, certainly in terms of her court coverage and speed, but she has maybe more of an element of power that will match Konta’s own style of aggressive play. The Romanina has admitted a few times this year that the nerves and expectation have affected her – especially in matches she is expected to, or believes she should win, and this is no different. The World No. 1 spot is on the line once more for Halep and could well make her just a little bit more jittery in the pressure moments.
Putting aside their Fed Cup encounters, which have both gone the way of Halep, the head to head makes more impressive reading for the Brit, but she is still match shy compared to Halep, and her little wobble at the start of the second set today showed she still needs a little polish to her game.
We can expect this to be a tough battle, and a close one.
Prediction: Konta in three sets.
Konta and Halep are scheduled on Centre Court not before 7pm (Midnight, BST).
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