PARIS, FRANCE – Johanna Konta kept the singles flag flying as she eased past Donna Vekic to set up a third encounter with Sloane Stephens this year.
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Johanna Konta  def. Donna Vekic  6-2 6-4
Given their history, we had every right to believe this was going to be an epic in the making – their previous Slam encounter going to 10-8 n the deciding set. It looked as though the nerves of expectation was getting to both of them with three straight breaks of serve before Johanna Konta was the first to hold, giving her a slim advantage. With Donna Vekic settling her own nerves, the next few games were a little tighter, with Vekic not able to covert on a chance to level things up, before Konta struck again for a double-break cushion.
Vekic toiled away but wasted four more break point chances, before Konta grabbed the first set. The start of the second set was very competitive – not a sniff of a break point chance until the pair went back to trading breaks, again with Konta coming out on top, backing that up by serving for the match, to love.
After the match, she said: “I thought I had very, very few drops in my level, which I think definitely kept the pressure on her and in trying to find a solution. The thing with Donna is until we shook hands, I thought there was always going to be an opportunity or a chance that she was going to raise her level or do something or even for me to drop.
“It’s never a guarantee to play well throughout the whole match. At 4-3 there was very little in it for it to go 5-3, as well, so it could have been easily a momentum shift for her, as well. I thought I did a good job in just contained play.”
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Last year’s runner-up Sloane Stephens overcame a slow start against the former 2016 champion Garbiñe Muguruzato work her way back into the match. Stephens won a pivotal game, saving five break points, after which she was the one to put Muguruza under pressure with a break back before a flurry of breaks, with Stephens just coming out on top.
The second set saw very little between them before Stephens broke, to serve out for the match. She had to earn that though as Muguruza saved four match points before Stephens booked her spot in the quarter-final.
If Konta’s serve is working, then usually all the other aspects of her game tend to flow well, but in Stephens she will be up against one of the tour’s most versatile players. She too has a solid serve, and relised on her footspeed around the court to get her to the net where she is equally adept at finishing her points. If Konta can’t disguise her drop-shots, she could find herself in trouble, and smartly.
Take nothing away from Konta, this has been an extraordinary run, and with a full grass court season, she has bought herself a protection where the rankings are concerned. A seeding is all that matters for (literally) home turf. However, Stephens is in impressive form. And she knows a thing or two about dealing with the second week here.
Stephens said, of Konta: “She has a good, all-around solid game. I mean, obviously she’s been at the top of the game before, so she knows how to play in key moments.
“Clay is a neutraliser. It’s good for everybody. Like I said, she’s improved her results on clay, so she obviously is feeling good on the surface. It’s definitely a neutraliser.
“A quarterfinal of a Grand Slam is definitely a neutraliser. There’s a lot of factors that go into that. I said, just going to go out and execute, and I’m sure she’ll do the same, and we’ll have a good match.”
Prediction: Stephens in three sets.
Konta and Stephens are scheduled on Court Philippe Chatrier at 2pm (1pm BST).
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