Johanna Konta reaches the final at the Nature Valley Open with a straight-sets win over Donna Vekic
A long day on court came to a close with Johanna Konta moving on at the Nature Valley Open Saturday night. The match that had dominating moments from the Brit and arguments from both sides directed at the umpire ended with the World No. 22 winning 6-2, 6-3 against Donna Vekic on Centre Court at the Nottingham Tennis Centre. It was the second straight appearance for Konta in the final that didn’t come easy.
The rematch of last year’s final takes place to determine who would truly go for it all. The Croatian feeling comfortable on grass took down the British favorite in what went three sets.
She kept the heat up at Wimbledon two weeks later going the distance with Konta only to lose out. With the situation very much the same as it was last year, the two players meet with six straight-set wins. With only one able to move on to Sunday’s title match, the key would be to who got the best jump in the opening games or the first to blink.
Konta broke ahead first breaking Vekic’s opening serve before consolidating it with a serve to love. The 21-year-old got into the set holding on her second service attempt that allowed her to stay within reach of the No.1 Brit.
Konta remained a break up after five and opened the gap on Vekic to lead 4-2 due to double faults from the Croatian. She was in control going forward taking the response against Vekic’s serve to break her for the double with one to go.
With the serve in hand, Konta delivered the knockout with her strong first serve that put her in the best spot after 29 minutes.
The Brit served 70 percent but won 13 of 14 on first serve points and 8 of 11 on second serve returns. It was enough to break down the young Croatian who by the end of the set had other issues concerning her.
During the break she called for the trainer who helped alleviate pain in her right leg. When treatment wasn’t working on court, Vekic and the trainer left court to fix the issue. Before she could return to court, rain fell on court for a time before the players returned to continue the match.
After an hour and a half rain delay, the match continued with Vekic opening with a strong service hold giving the indication that the time off court helped her recover well.
Konta didn’t let the improvement of her opponent phase her answering with a shutout in the second game. She broke Vekic in the third which frustrated the 21-year-old to no end. As the shadows began to fall on court both players were adamant about their own agendas with Vekic wanting nothing more than to find control on offense.
She had a double break point chance in hand but lost it due to Konta’s accuracy on ball placement out of reach of the 21-year-old. The Brit forced deuce and then took the fourth on the AD point.
Despite being two games down, it was not a major problem for Vekic who had a grip on her first serve. The hold she managed to put down secured the fifth keeping her a game away from leveling with Konta.
She got the job done taking a second straight win from the world No. 22 hoping to threaten further on and gain ground of her own. The seventh saw a loss of nerves from Vekic who argued a call and lost her anger and a point. A sixth double fault from her end gifted the game to Konta who served to extend the gap.
Despite the time violation that she took to heart in the eighth, Konta managed to hold serve and play for the match on Vekic’s struggling service game.
She couldn’t reel in another hold giving up free points on the errors. Konta had two match points before a final error from Vekic ended her title defense after one hour and 15 minutes.
“It was definitely challenging,” Konta said to Annabelle Croft when asked about the time on and off the court. “It was challenging for a number of different reasons and it’s never easy also with the rain delay. I’m very happy to just battle through and try to really just keep my mind at the task in hand.” For a second chance at a WTA title, she’ll face Australia’s Ashleigh Barty who she beat last year in the quarterfinals. “I know she’s a crafty player and a very talented player on the surface so I know it’s gonna be a tough match for me and I’m looking forward to that.”
Can Konta clinch the title at the Nature Valley Open? Sound off your opinions in the comments section below!