WUHAN, China -- In a rematch of a second-round encounter from last year, No.16 seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia claimed a tense victory over Johanna Konta of Great Britain, 7-5, 6-4, to advance to the second round of the 2018 Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open on Monday.
Last year, Barty needed to survive a third-set tiebreak in Wuhan to get by Konta, en route to the biggest singles final of her career to date. The Australian extended her head-to-head record to 3-1 against Konta after triumphing this year after an hour and 40 minutes of play.
22-year-old Barty weathered the ups and downs of the match with some excellent clutch serving, slamming 10 aces, a full one-third of her 30 winners. Barty was also able to convert six of her 10 break points throughout the encounter, and took 60 percent of the points on Konta's second serve.
Barty will continue her quest to reach a second consecutive championship match in Wuhan; her second-round opponent will be Chinese wild card Zheng Saisai, who ousted American Danielle Collins in three sets in the first round.
Barty claimed the first break of the match after Konta double faulted on break point at 2-1. But Konta quickly got back on serve in the following game as the topsy-turvy opening frame got fully underway.
Konta survived three break points in the next game, holding for 3-3 with exceptional depth on her forehand side. The Brit then went up a break for the first time, crushing a forehand winner to take Barty’s service for her third game in a row and a 4-3 lead.
But, again, an advantage would not last, as Barty began to deploy her slice to great effect, forcing errors from Konta and leveling the set at 4-4. One love service game by each player followed, as little separated the combatants en route to 5-5.
After a routine service hold by Barty, though, it was Konta who faltered at crunch time, squandering two game points at 6-5 with unforced errors, and blasting a forehand wide on the second deuce of the game to give Barty a set point. The Australian took immediate advantage, slicing a service return to force a backhand error from the Brit and clinch the hard-fought set.
However, Konta took an immediate lead in the second set after Barty double faulted on break point in the opening game. Former World No.4 Konta held onto that single-break lead until her service game at 3-2, when strong returning and exceptional defense by Barty allowed the 16th seed to get back on serve at 3-3.
Barty began to dominate with her forehand side, picking up a break point at 4-3 with a volley winner off of that wing. The top-ranked Australian converted that chance when a volley by Konta went wide, and Barty would therefore serve for the match at 5-3 after claiming four games in a row.
An ace in that game brought up match point, but the chance went begging, and Konta suddenly found herself back on serve after a deep return on break point led to a Barty forehand error. But Barty powered through a tough game on Konta’s serve, eventually reaching a third match point with a winning backhand lob. After a Konta forehand went long on that point, Barty was into round two.
More to follow...