EASTBOURNE, Great Britain – Johanna Konta, the No.14 seed, moved through to the last 16 of the Nature Valley International thanks to an impressive 6-4, 7-6(4) win over Maria Sakkari.
That serve dominated the match was perhaps little surprise given that both players had won their first-round ties without so much as facing a break point, though it was the Brit’s greater assurance on return that allowed her to book a date in the last 16 with Ons Jabeur.
For Konta, it was a third win in four matches against the 23-year-old and exacted some form of revenge after she was defeated in the final of Rabat earlier this year.
A single break of serve was sufficient for the 28-year-old to take the first set while the players shared two before a tiebreak in the second.
“It was a tough match throughout, there was so little in it,” she confirmed in her on-court interview. “I thought she played better than me for most of it. There were few opportunities out there. It was so tough to hang with her because she was playing so well.”
After both women had held to love, Konta faced two break points in the fourth game, during which she showcased the type of big serving that was to be a motif of her match. Faced with a similar problem in the following game, Sakkari failed to come up with a similar answer, surviving the first with the help of the net tape but caught out when she was worked to the net on the following point.
Meanwhile, the quality of Konta’s serving persistently frustrated Sakkari. The Brit delivered 67% of her first serves in during the opening set, doing so with such pace and accuracy that meant she was the master of her own destiny. Consequently, the set was tied down without a significant scare.
Sakkari’s confusion as to how to make an inroad into her opponent was made plain during a coaching timeout early in the second set. After losing nine of the first eight points on the Konta delivery, she gave an insight into her mental state as she struggled to take on board the advice from Tom Hill.
It took a slip from Konta at the back of the court to provide the opening required for the Greek to pounce, breaking out of the blue to love. Once ahead, though, she allowed her concentration to wander for a game and found herself immediately broken back.
The impasse only looked likely to be decided by a tiebreak, and so it came to pass. The deciding game, though, was quite unlike what went before as the first five points were all won against the server until Konta boomed down an unreturnable serve. From there, the home player had the foundation to go on to winner the break, taking the match in one hour 39 minutes.
And the prospect of Jabeur in the last 16 is one Konta is looking forward to.
“She’s a very talented player, she plays so well on all surfaces,” she said. “She’s another tough opponent and it will be another tough match.”