Johanna Konta wins in strong return to grass court season opener
Johanna Konta had a game she truly missed playing at the Nature Valley Open Tuesday evening. The British number one and 2017 finalist of the tournament had all the offensive elements in position to take down Kurumi Nara in straight sets 6-2, 6-3 on Centre Court at the Nottingham Tennis Centre.
The two met for a record eighth time with three previously coming in the first round in which the number one Brit won two of three. Her season hasn’t been one of success since the start of the season.
With her tough exit early at Roland Garros, the 27-year-old gets into her strengths of playing on home soil and on the grass courts. Last year she reached the finals of Nottingham only to lose by a small margin. Her eagerness to turn things around at the halfway point will be more than shown against Nara who returned to the WTA Tour in Paris for the first time since Indian Wells.
The Brit got her run started with a quick 2-0 lead breaking Nara’s opening serve with heavy returns. She almost had the double in hand until the 26-year-old saved herself on the second serve landing her first ace.
While getting on serve was imperative for Nara to attain, Konta had no issues with staying that way as she laid down another good hold scoring two aces to maintain her gap. She opened it to three with the second serve increasing on points won to earn the second break of Nara in the set.
The third ace from Konta arrived on serve in the sixth after a sluggish start. She held it together to make it 5-1 before Nara earned her first serve to love in the seventh. Konta had two chances to serve out the set but took her first shot at it earning double set point ending 29 minutes of play.
While her offense as a whole was dominant, it put a toll on Nara’s return game in which she won 2 of 12 from the first and two of eight on the second serve return. It was clear that Nara faced heavy opposition from the world number 22 who would not lose the match.
She made good on her efforts winning another opening break before avoiding a long deuce draw to win on serve in the second. Nara gained a service hold in the third before taking a chat with coach Takahiro Terachi who made a second appearance on the court helping her remedy the situation. She slowly brought the service game up that allowed her to hold serve in the fifth staying within reach of Konta.
The British number one continued to lead after seven despite noticing that Nara had a firm grip on serve. As dusk began to fall on the court, Konta fired away making it difficult for the 26-year-old to strike back on. She easily got the win creating crosscourt shots that beat out her opponent to lead 5-3. The final game was a breeze for Konta who played out her final service game of the day to come out a winner 63 minutes of competition.
The Brit showed comfort on serve winning 78 percent while serving at 71 from start to finish. While the return side of her game didn’t prosper, the strong win on the court gave everyone a positive feeling that the 27-year-old was feeling great about her quest to succeed. She’ll try to keep it up facing British rival Heather Watson in the second round Wednesday.
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