The British No.1 Johanna Konta is currently on an astonishing run of form, winning eight sets in a row at the Australian Open – along with the ten she picked up in her Apia International victory. However, tonight (at midnight, if you’re in the UK) she will face one of the biggest challenges in her career in the form of the great Serena Williams.
The two have never met before on the court and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Konta might be overawed by her legendary quarter-final opponent. However, Konta has proven time and again that she can handle the pressure, staying strong to grind out impressive results. So how can she beat the current World No.2?
Nail the serve
The serve is Konta’s not-so-secret weapon and, with the games likely to be short this evening, service games will be a key battleground. Her serve may not be the fastest (although an average of 104mph ain’t half bad), but it’s certainly consistently powerful and accurate: Konta has landed 65% of her first serves so far in the tournament, compared to Williams’ 56%. Moreover, her service game has been broken a mere two times out of 36.
Jeremy Bates, head of women’s tennis at the LTA, told the Evening Standard: “I think a lot of it will be down to how well they serve. They both have the power to win points pretty quickly in a rally situation. Jo’s serving yesterday, in the first set in particular, was unbelievable. Both Jo and Serena will be looking for second serves. Whoever’s not making as many first serves as the other is going to be under immense pressure.”
Pile on the pressure
As you can see from the video below, Konta is able to draw from an armory of powerful groundstokes to quickly kill off a point. Considering that 73% of her games ended in four shots or fewer against Ekaterina Makarova, she should look to pile the pressure on to the 22-time Grand Slam champion with hefty, aggressive groundstrokes and force her into making mistakes.
Konta also has the edge in unforced errors, with 72 from 423 shots, compared to Williams’ 125 from 475. If she, therefore, adds consistency to the power, she could make life very difficult for the American.
Mind over matter
As alluded to above, many players fall victim to Serena Williams’ reputation before they even hit the first ball. Not so Johanna Konta, who has employed her trademark modesty and professionalism to play down any potential nerves.
“I am just looking forward to playing the ball, playing each point on its own and just enjoying competing – like I have every single other match,” she told the Guardian. “It is also important to keep a perspective that it is another opportunity to compete here and, yes, I am just trying to extend my stay here as long as possible.” One thing’s for sure, it should be a fascinating contest.
The match will be live on Eurosport from midnight UK time.