Johanna Konta really added fuel to a hotly contended match at the Australian Open Tuesday. The 27-year-old played a high-quality battle against Ajla Tomljanovic who took her to the distance but fell out of it in the late stages of a 7-6(4) 2-6, 7-6(7) on Court Three on the grounds of Melbourne Park. Their new rivalry was an epic fight on the court with the Brit overcoming many moments of having to come back against the Australian.
It appeared that the two stars couldn’t get away from one another this season. Even after playing in the same tournament in back to back years, the Brit faced off against the Aussie for the third time and second straight for one another. Tomljanovic defeated Konta in Brisbane before being ousted in the quarterfinals there.
The Brit had to call out two matches later during qualifications because of a neck injury. After taking time to allow the muscles in the area relax, the 27-year-old eyed plenty of practice to be ready for anything. While neither expected to start the year’s first grand slam this way, the series lead and a spot in the second round were no doubt on the line.
Tomljanovic opened with a break of Konta before inching out early in the second with a service hold. Konta knew that a gap of any size was no good and battled to get one recorded to her name. The Aussie kept her serve on lock leading 3-1 after the fourth with the Brit to act. She ran along with another service hold that put her in reach of evening up with Tomljanovic. A terrific triple break by the Brit completed the short comeback looking to find some control against her opponent.
With ground lost, Tomljanovic was intent on getting back out front but it was a true battle for the lead. The seventh game lasted more than eight minutes with Konta smashing a serve which came back wide ending four breaks of deuce with the 27-year-old carrying momentum. It suddenly turned around with the Brit erring enough giving free points to Tomljanovic who went on to take the win.
They remained on serve through ten forcing them to fight it out in extra frames with leverage in Tomljanovic’s end. She had Konta flustered in the 11th but gave her a break with unforced errors on the backhand. With the pressure on Tomljanovic, the 25-year-old had to serve well in order to force a tiebreak. She did just that making it a very interesting conclusion to the set. Both players recorded 41 points each prior to the tiebreak which Tomljanovic opened to lead.
Konta rallied back before they leveled at three-all with one another. After a short break, the Brit scored two straight but had a ball land just long of the baseline where Tomljanovic stood. She made up for it with a great winner that handed her two set points which ended the set with a low shot from the Australian that went into the net. It was a one hour and two-minute ordeal with both players very much playing tight tennis with the difference coming in the second serve. Konta won eight of 15 points while Tomljanovic suffered on only 33 percent coming from hers.
It was again an issue for the Australian but despite a short fight on deuce, she came out with the service hold. Konta trailed along with Tomljanovic who anted up on her offense scoring a serve to love in the third. Konta was able to do the same but after another hold to the world number 47, she rallied to force deuce only to lose her chance to win. Tomljanovic countered for a breakpoint chance that she clinched to make it 4-2.
The 25-year-old got into a great spot to end the set on her terms with Konta in danger of playing a decider. She game Tomljanovic just enough to coast to victory in the second set that took 38 minutes to finish. The Aussie minimized the unforced errors committing only five while having her serves in check. She had 20 of 27 from the first and four of seven from the second allowing her to regroup well.
She put those positive aspects into the third set where she started the third with containment of Konta during a break on a deuce. The Brit stayed on serve with Tomljanovic that went on through five games. While the Aussie was the only feeling the challenges of the number one Brit, she was determined to keep ahead of the 27-year-old. She had a chance in the ninth to do it but with Konta on serve, it was to become a real fight for their tennis lives.
Tomljanovic maintained her stance holding well in the 11th getting another shot at taking Konta down for the match. The Brit denied her that opportunity as she got in deep in the court and landed a key ace that set up a special third set tiebreak where the first to ten points would win. Both surprisingly had tiebreak records of 28-22 with both of them in new territory. Tomljanovic looked unsteady through the first two points that went in favor of the 27-year-old who kept cool to start them off. A great changeup during a rally gave the Aussie life before evening up at two all.
She scored her third point in a row doing everything needed to be successful to create havoc for Konta. A winner made it four straight catching the Brit off the mark. An unforced error ended the points streak of the 25-year-old but one from Konta gave her a 5-3 margin. Through the next few points, Konta kept within a point before leveling at six each leaving them very close to completing the match.
In the end, Konta kept focused which was the key to her victory winning the last three points. Tomljanovic saw each of them go by losing her core mentality at the wrong time to bring an end to 2 hours and 51 minutes.
With a hard day behind her, she won't see things get easier as she faces the winner between Garbine Muguruza and Saisai Zheng on Thursday.Published 15 Jan 2019, 09:04 IST