Faces Karolina Pliskova  for a first WTA Tour-level clay court title
ROME, ITALY – Johanna Konta’s clicking with the clay continued as she beat one of the most accomplished clay-courters Kiki Bertens to set up a final encounter with Karolina Pliskova.
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Johanna Konta def. Kiki Bertens  5-7 7-5 6-2
British No. 1 Johanna Konta is on the way to bookending a remarkable clay court build-up to Roland Garros with a second tour-level final this season, after she overcame Madrid champion Kiki Bertens in a tight three-setter.
Bertens was the first to break, but was immediately pegged back, and when she had the chance to go ahead, Konta’s resolve saw her break the Dutchwoman straight back to love, and in a tight match, with not many margins between them, Bertens took the chance to capitalise on a tight game from Konta to break for the first set.
Konta did not let that deter her from a swift start in the second set, with Bertens hitting straight back before a competitive set, this time with Konta breaking as Bertens started to look a little more fatigued.
The decider saw Konta get the first break as Bertens started to unravel more, The Madrid champion has had a lot of tennis in the last two weeks, and despite putting up a real fight saving three match points before finally surrendering a nine-match winning streak.
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Konta v Karolina Pliskova  | Pliskova leads H2H 5-1
For a while it looked as though we would see a repeat of the Rabat final, but No. 4 seed Karolina Pliskova overcame the Greek (without any need to kill any umpire’s chairs stone dead either) to set up only their second clash on clay (their first being their first encounter at the Prerov ITF event back in 2011.
It’s safe to say a lot has happened for both players since then. While Konta has indeed picked up clay court titles at the ITF level, this is by far her best run on the dirt at the WTA tour level, trumping her run to the Rabat final earlier this year.
Pliskova is coming good after a frustrating few weeks having struggled with illness since Miami, resulting in a listless loss as she started the season with a short-lived attempt to defend her Stuttgart title. Madrid was not much better for the Czech but in Rome she really started to hit her stride, coming from a set down twice before easing past a fatigued Maria Sakkari.
There is no doubt that Pliskova has more experience at this level for clay-court hardware – she won the Prague title (her first) in 2015, before scoring a Porsche and the Stuttgart title, but Konta is playing with a lot of confidence at the moment. Even when she lost in the second round to Simona Halep in Madrid, the Brit caught the reigning Roland Garros champ napping at the start of the match, and if she gets off to a quick start Pliskova could find herself in a bit of strife.
Interestingly both players have developed a style of play that adapts their hard-court game to the dirt. Konta has had varying, but admittedly improving success with drop shots, and some of her reflex volleys and pick-ups against Bertens hit the mark more often than not as she ground down the Dutchwoman.
If Konta has a good serving day, she can expect to get some free points off her serve, and Pliskova of course will be relying on the same. Both play aggressive tennis and are strong off both wings. Pliskova would still have the edge at the net, but Konta could well burn her with some (but possibly not all) of those drop-shots.
If she can get this to a decider, the Brit could well be in with a chance.
Prediction: Konta in three sets.
Konta and Pliskova are scheduled on Court Centrale at 1pm (12pm BST).
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