It has been while since the pair met – with Su-Wei Hsieh taking the initial honours on home turf (literally) at Eastbourne against the home-grown wild-card. Konta would get her revenge later in the year at a lower tier event, but it is a clean slate now.
Hsieh is a long way from her breakthrough Top 30 season of 2012, and has tended to focus on her doubles a little more. Her clay success has tended to be in the lower tiers of late – but all the same it will be quite a challenging opener for her.
Albeit on the ITF levels, Taylor Townsend has been doing her homework on the clay in the run up to Roland Garros, but at this stage on the tour, Konta really should have far more weapons at her disposal to get past the American.
Even allowing for the fact that in their first match, Konta retired on the clay of Madrid, the pair have had a tight history, with Caroline Garcia taking the most recent honours when Konta’s game-plan just seemed to desert her. This would be a tough nut to crack on clay in front of Garcia’s home crowd, but the Frenchwoman has not always been comfortable as the centre of attention.
If Konta makes it this far she ought to feel pretty confident about her chances to advance – Agnieszka Radwanska played the Tie Break Tens fast format exhibition in Madrid before withdrawing from there and Rome with a foot injury.
When it comes to facing No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova, Konta has come up resoundingly short until Beijing as she was finishing last year with a flourish. She snapped a straight five-match winning spree for the Czech and with clay neither player’s best surface – this quarter-final could well be up for grabs.
In reality Simona Halep faces a tough task to get back from tearing ankle ligaments in Rome, but should the Romanian make it thus far, (as well as Konta for that matter) it will be an interesting fight. Halep was supreme in front her home crowd in a frankly fraught Fed Cup tie, so there might be the element for a little match-play revenge.
In reality the bracket above probably belongs to Elina Svitolina, who beat Halep for the Rome title and in light of the Romanian’s injury is probably one of the hot favourites to grab the whole shebang. She leads Konta 2-0 in their head to head.
With top seed and World No. 1 Angelique Kerber bounced out on the first Sunday, defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza is now the best prospect to rule the top half of the draw, especially after her start against former champion Francesca Schiavone. However, Konta has the measure of the Spaniard – on hard courts at least. Could she do it on the clay too?
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