Mertens comes back to secure semifinals spot at Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic
Elise Mertens leveled the score at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic on Friday afternoon. The Belgian's strategy and aggression got her a straight-sets victory as she won 7-6(4), 6-3 against Johanna Konta on Stadium Court at the San Jose State Tennis Center.
The two met back at Miami where Konta used her technical skills and strength on the hard court to dispatch the Belgian. Mertens stood as a tough opponent earlier this year showing her will to take on anyone as she nearly went for a slam title in Melbourne. She then showed her power on the clay courts that got her to 15th in the rankings. As the second half of the hard court season is underway, the quarterfinal match had both vying for a continuance of their tournament run.
Konta was on point serving up a shutout to Mertens before attacking the Belgian's weak service game in the second. She made it a three-game losing streak for her opponent, keeping the first serve in check and staying on her success from offense. Mertens got it together in the fourth delivering some big shots on the rally that Konta struggled with just enough. When she tried to go for a second, the Brit shut her down making it 4-1 causing the Belgian to take a chat with her coach for help.
She went after the backhand returns of Konta in the sixth that allowed her to pick up another service hold. While it was a slight improvement to her forehand serve, the margin became too great for the Belgian as Konta scored another serve to love. It gave her a shot to play for the set with Mertens on the edge of going a set down.
She stayed alive with an ace to start followed by two forehand winners hoping to build a comeback. The 27-year-old got into a hole in the ninth, double faulting with two forehand errors handing Mertens triple break point where on a nine-shot rally, a lob attempt from the Brit didn’t get over the net.
With two games lost, Konta tried to reel Mertens back in but struggling on the returns in the tenth didn’t earn her the result she wanted. Her opponent didn’t put up the strongest game but did have some quality shots that gave her a third win over Konta sending the set deep. The Brit was first to act on getting ahead with a couple of winners before capturing the game on Merten's unforced errors.
Konta continued with the tactics of the previous game but got into trouble late to go to deuce in the 12th. After one break, it was Mertens who successfully pulled off the comeback winning on a challenged call to force a tiebreak. Mertens opened by staying ahead of Konta who struggled to be consistent. Although she fought through every point, she fell to the Belgian who earned two set points to overturn what was at one point not going her way after 53 minutes of play.
Konta's return game ultimately let her down with her scoring 6 of 27 and 10 of 18 from the second service. While she didn’t have the second serve up to speed the first serve took care of the workload to put her a set up.
Konta knew that she was in trouble with her first lost set of the tournament and made a statement by breaking Mertens. The 22-year-old answered back in kind with a break before consolidating with a hold of serve in the third.
Konta tied to keep with Mertens in the fourth but holding off her opponent proved difficult as she lost control on deuce putting her two games back. Mertens remained strong adding a fourth win to her bottom line while avoiding giving up too much to the Brit.
The 27-year-old managed her first serve to love in the set but the ascent back to level pegging was greater with Mertens eyeing a straight sets win over the 2016 champ. She picked up a hold of serve that put her a game away but Konta handled the pressure on serve in the eighth to stay alive. Mertens gave herself a chance to dictate the final game and put down two winners to begin the ninth.
Konta struck back with a stance inside the court that got her on the board but hit a forehand wide giving Mertens two match points. In 1 hour and 33 minutes, the 22-year-old earned her way into the semifinals with a return from Konta landing in the net ending her chance for a second title at the tournament.
Mertens had the first serve going wire to wire, with here landing 36 of 49 with the service at 62 percent. With another step in the right direction and revenge achieved against Konta, she'll get ready for Saturday's semifinal against fifth-seeded Mihaela Buzarnescu.