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Johanna Konta Targets Redemption On The Grass

After her French Open disappointment, the former top-five player is hoping to get back on track.

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Johanna Konta (zimbio.com)

This year’s grass swing of the tour will be crucial for many players, but even more so for British No.1 Johanna Konta.

The 27-year-old has experienced a roller coaster first half of the year. On the tour, she has only managed to win back-to-back matches in four out of 11 tournaments played prior to this week. Her latest disappointment occurred at the French Open. A tournament that has brought nothing but misery for Konta over the years. In the first round she crashed out to Yulia Putintseva before hitting out at the British media over how they portray her.

Konta is aiming to turn her fortunes around on the grass. This week she is the fourth seed at the Nottingham International, which is a WTA International event. She kick-started her campaign on Tuesday with a 6-2, 6-3, win over Japan’s Kurumi Nara. Scoring her 12th victory of the season (excluding the Fed Cup).

“I’m definitely really pleased that I won my first match on grass,” Konta said afterwards. “I really wanted to make sure that I competed during every single point, regardless of how I played level-wise. I wanted to make sure I was competitive from the first to the last ball, and I think that’s what I did.”

Regardless of the positive start, the former world No.4 is aware that her form is at a different stage compared to that of 12 months ago. Heading into the 2017 grass swing, Konta already had two titles under her belt. It was also during that year where she reached the semifinals at Wimbledon. Becoming the first British woman to do so since Virginia Wade in 1978.

“I’m coming into this period with different challenges than I was last year. Last year coming into this period I had a lot of matches under my belt, a lot more matches than this year and a lot more wins than this year as well, so I think the challenges are slightly different,” Konta explained during an interview with Sky Sports.

The lacklustre season has had little impact on Konta’s goals for the ultimate grass court event – Wimbledon. This year is set to be her seventh consecutive appearance in the main draw.

“I want to be there for the full two weeks. I would absolutely really want to be there for the full two weeks.” She stated.
“Most importantly to keep working hard, keeping fighting. I’m enjoying that feeling of just going there and fighting my way through every round that I get a chance to play.”

Prior to the grand slam, Konta’s immediate focus remains on Nottingham. In the second round she will take on fellow Brit Heather Watson. A win would elevate her into only her second WTA quarter-final of the season and her first since January.

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Ekaterina Makarova Blows Past Pliskova In New Haven Upset

The No. 4 seed faded badly in both sets.

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Ekaterina Makarova (zimbio.com)

Ekaterina Makarova had her way with Karolina Pliskova, dominating the first set and storming back in the second to hand the No. 4 seed a 6-1, 6-3 loss in the first round in Connecticut on Monday.

Pliskova had rebounded from an atrocious first set to play well in the second set and generate more opportunities, but it slipped away from her at 3-4. Makarova built a 0-30 lead there, then earned break point and smashed several forehands until one down the line finally outdid Pliskova.

The Russian, ranked 49th in the world, found some trouble while serving out the match, but slammed two aces from 30-30 to book her place in the second round.

“I’m very happy that I got through,” Makarova said on-court. “Today was a very good match for me. I was a little bit relaxed. It was going good.”

Makarova had a clear edge statistically, putting 71 percent of first serves in play compared to fewer than half for Pliskova. The No. 4 seed won a putrid 32 percent of second serve points and saved only one of five break points; Makarova staved off all three break chances she faced.

The 30-year-old, who won the Cincinnati doubles title with Lucie Hradecka last week, hit 22 winners, while Pliskova was underwater with 14 winners and 21 unforced errors.

She was especially dominant in the first set, winning the final six games. Pliskova handed her an insurance break and the set — first with a forehand return the Czech didn’t bother returning, then a double fault on set point — and lost the last 10 points on her serve. Makarova won 18 of the last 20 points in the set.

She will next meet Magdalena Rybarikova, who advanced after CoCo Vandeweghe retired midway through the third set on Sunday.

Also Monday, Johanna Konta saw off Laura Siegemund with a 6-2, 7-5 win. The Briton won the first three games, faced just two break points and hit six aces. She lost an early break in the second set and failed to convert three break chances at 4-4, but capitalized at 5-5 when Siegemund paired a double fault with a bad forehand from deuce.

Konta then fended off a break point before securing the win, setting up a second round match with Carla Suárez Navarro, who beat No. 8 seed Barbora Strycova on Sunday.

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Former Champions Radwanska and Kvitova Set To Meet In Stacked New Haven Draw

Former champions Agnieszka Radwanska and Petra Kvitova will face each other in the first round of the Connecticut Open.

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Petra Kvitova (zimbio.com)

Former champions of the Connecticut Open, Agnieszka Radwanska and Petra Kvitova are set to meet in the first round of a stacked draw in New Haven. 

This year’s draw sees five of the top ten players in New Haven in a very stacked draw in Connecticut. This is the first time this has happened since 2006 as the world number one, Simona Halep leads the field.

The Romanian is having her best season of her career and is currently in the semi-finals of Cincinnati after winning Montreal. So it would be no surprise if she decided to take a week’s rest in preparation for the US Open, however if she does play she will face a qualifier in her second round contest.

Other highlights from the New Haven draw sees two former champions battle it out as Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska battles Petra Kvitova. The Czech Republican is in some sensational form as well as she is into the last four in Cincinnati.

This is completely different form to her opponent, who has been struggling with injuries and form. Despite the Pole knocking off the current world number one earlier this season, she hasn’t really pushed on from that and has only won 13 of her 24 matches this season. So how will Radwanska respond to yet another rough draw in Connecticut?

Other highlights of the draw see defending champion, Daria Gavrilova take on Kristina Mladenovic in the first round, with the winner awaiting Caroline Garcia. While 7th seed Kiki Bertens will face Anett Kontaveit in a Cincinnati rematch, which Bertens won in three sets.

Here is the full draw, with play set to begin on Sunday:

Simona Halep v BYE

Qualifier v Qualifier

Qualifier v Aryna Sabalenka

Irina-Camelia Begu v Ashleigh Barty

Karolina Pliskova v Ekaterina Makarova

Magdalena Rybarikova v Coco Vandeweghe

Qualifier v Danielle Collins

Barbora Strycova v Carla Suarez Navarro

Laura Siegemund v Johanna Konta 

Maria Sakkari v Qualifier

Agnieszka Radwanska v Petra Kvitova 

Kiki Bertens v Anett Kontaveit

Qualifier v Timea Bacsinszky 

Daria Gavrilova v Kristina Mladenovic 

BYE v Caroline Garcia 

 

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Simona Halep Secures Seventh Straight Win To Reach Cincinnati Last Eight

Simona Halep won her seventh consecutive match with a straight sets victory over Ashleigh Barty.

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Simona Halep (zimbio.com)

World number one, Simona Halep defeated Ashleigh Barty 7-5 6-4 to secure her seventh consecutive win and reach the quarter-finals in Cincinnati. 

The Romanian recovered from a break down in the first set as Barty started off the match quickly, catching her higher ranked opponent off guard. The world number one eased to holds of serve after getting back on serve as she protected her forehand angles perfectly. The Australian was looking to avoid the same outcome of their Montreal match last week as she effectively dictated points from the back of the court on her serve.

However the top seed proved too much and broke in the eleventh game much to her relief as her forehand once again paid dividends. The Montreal champion wrapped up the opening set in 46 minutes to gain a one set lead on Barty. The second set was similar as Barty gained an early break of serve with the Australian temporarily snatching the momentum back.

However the world number 16 was up against one of the best returners in the game and lost her serve twice in a row to hand the advantage back to Halep. The Roland Garros champion had to fend off a late surge from Barty but eventually sealed her place in the quarter-finals with her first match point.

A seventh consecutive win for Halep and a second victory over Barty proves that she is in her best form of her career as she believes in her ability to beat anyone. The Romanian will now face Lesia Tsurenko in the last eight later today.

In the rest of the third results on Thursday, Elina Svitolina proved too much for 16 year old Amanda Anisimova as she sealed a 6-4 6-4 victory over the American. The Ukrainian broke at the end of each set to seal her place in the quarter-finals. She will now play Kiki Bertens, who secured 6-3 2-6 6-3 victory over Anett Kontaveit serving down eight aces. It is now back to back quarter-finals for Bertens after a strong showing in Montreal.

Here is the full quarter-final line-up, with play beginning later on Thursday:

Simona Halep v Lesia Tsurenko

Madison Keys v Aryna Sabalenka

Petra Kvitova v Elise Mertens

Elina Svitolina v Kiki Bertens

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