Johanna Konta Faces Big Opening Test Against Powerful Kontaveit in Birmingham


Johanna Konta begins her grass court swing in the next couple of days, but she didn’t draw the easiest of first round opponents. The French Open semifinalist will have to get through the World No.20 Anett Kontaveit if she is to make the second round of the Nature Valley Classic for the first time in three years.

Kontaveit’s Game

So what does Kontaveit really bring to a tennis court and what threat does she pose to a player like Konta? Kontaveit is and has always been a dangerous player from the back of the court. She can utilize powerful groundstrokes off both wings and take time away easily. She’ll definitely be looking to be the player on the front foot and bossing things from the start. Konta is a player that likes her matches under her control, so the Estonian can cause quite a few problems, because not every point will be decided by the Brit’s racquet in this particular matchup.

Kontaveit’s results had really taken an upward turn in the tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, where she made the Round of 16 and the semifinal, respectively. She has really seen some big improvements since she linked up with well-respected British coach Nigel Sears. Sears has been trying to work on some fundamental areas. The consistency off the ground is one of them, but he’s also made it clear that he wants to make the bad days less bad. The Estonian can have matches where she doesn’t miss and can blow her opponent off the court, but Sears is desperate to see her find that middle ground to her game both mentally and technically on a match court. She’s now a Top 20 player, so she’s heading in the right direction, but faces a very big test versus Konta in Birmingham.

Recent Success for Johanna Konta

It does really feel like Konta has really found that belief and trust in her game in recent weeks. She was in the World’s Top 5 at this point in the 2017 season, and saw her ranking plummet to just inside the Top 50. It was a huge fall from grace, and it has to be said at times it felt like it would be tough for Konta to ever get close to that level again. She made the decision to split with Michael Joyce after a short stint together and now the hard work she’s putting in with new coach Dimitri Zavialoff is really paying off.

Zavialoff has had success in the past with two Swiss players–both Stan Wawrinka and Timea Bacsinszky. The real difference that Zavialoff has made is Konta the license to really problem-solve her way out of matches all alone, all by herself, and allowing her the responsibility to trust herself in the big matches. His calm guidance off the court is ultimately transferring to the Brit in her on-court decision-making. There were matches in the French Open–particularly the victories over US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Donna Vekic–where her attention to detail to each and every serve and each and every baseline stroke never really dipped at all, and that comes down to the trust that Zavialoff has in Konta’s game from the very beginning they linked up.

Johanna Konta speaks about the match

Johanna Konta vs Anett Kontaveit should be an interesting battle. The pair have played twice in the past. Konta picked up a win in Acapulco back in 2016 on the hard courts in Mexico, but the Brit also has an important win over the Estonian in Fed Cup action last season. Konta talked through the matchup in her pre-tournament press conference in Birmingham.

“So I’ve played her a little more recently than Acapulco. I mean, she’s been playing great tennis for the last year or so. The last year and a half or so. She’s got a big game, so that is going to be the kind of game that is effective on the grass so it is going to be a tough match. I mean, Birmingham this year – as every year – is very strong so there is going to be no easy matches.

“To be honest I don’t know. I’ve played Nottingham every year. Forever. It is a different situation. It is a different dynamic so this will be my first grass court tournament but its a good problem to have and I’m just looking forward to getting started.¬†Naturally you will adapt to the surface that you are on. But they do play slightly differently and the obvious one is obviously the movement. The ball is obviously bouncing lower so I’ll have to be lower as well. It is different to the clay in that sense. I think there is going to be a quick adaptation process to the surface and how it plays quicker. The points will be slightly shorter than they are on the clay, but that is not to say that there won’t be long points on the grass either.”

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