World number 10, Johanna Konta will have her hands full when she takes on the enterprising Russian teenager, Daria Kasatkina in a mouth-watering quarter-final at the Apia International Sydney on Wednesday.
Konta is thrusting herself into the Australian Open ‘dark horse’ territory, following her semi-final run in Shenzhen, and this solid showing in Sydney. Remember, she was a semi-finalist in Melbourne in 2016.
Konta though, isn’t looking too far ahead just yet.
“I’m just happy I have accumulated already a few matches under my belt in the first few weeks of the season. I feel quite pleased about that... I’m not really thinking too far ahead … I’m right here in Sydney, enjoying my time here, trying to enjoy my involvement in the tournament as much as possible.”
The Sydney-born Briton has looked right at home in the Australian city this week, seeing off Australian, Arina Rodionova in straight sets in her opening round, and ending home hopes for good with her 6-1 6-3 dispatch of Daria Gavrilova in the second round. Despite some commendable late resistance at the end of both sets by Gavrilova, Konta was always in charge of the contest. Gavrilova showed her fighting qualities by saving seven set points in the final game of the opening set, but she was only delaying the inevitable as Konta eventually secured her third break of a dominant set to close out the opener.
The 25-year-old rammed home her advantage with a break at the start of the second set, and she controlled the match from there, eventually sealing the win in an hour and 21 minutes. Konta needed six match points to put away the battling Aussie, but Gavrilova’s resistance was more of a stay of execution than the start of a brilliant fight-back, and it was all over when she floated one final backhand return long.
Konta faces her toughest test of the tournament on Wednesday as she battles Russian sensation, Daria Kasatkina for a place in the semi-finals. Kasatkina has been generating plenty of buzz for some time now, but the early evidence from 2017 suggests that this could be a ground-breaking year for the nineteen-year old. Almost everything is right about Kasatkina- her attitude is positive, and her application on court is admirable. All of that was evident in her stunning victory over Angelique Kerber in Sydney on Tuesday.
It would have been easy for her to drop her head after that painful exit to Garbine Muguruza in Brisbane last week- she held a match point in that three-set epic- but she simply buckled down, went back to work and has produced an even bigger victory over the number one player in the world. The world number 26 (the highest-ranked teenager in the world) was typically dogged in a 3-6 6-4 6-2 victory over Timea Babos in her opening round in Sydney, and she combined that doggedness with controlled aggression to earn the biggest victory of her career over Kerber in the second.
Kasatkina has done a bit of home work on her next opponent, and as usual, she is ready for the challenge.
‘She has a good serve, good backhand. She does not have so many weaknesses... It will be a good match. And again, up against Top 10 player. I’m happy, because it is good to start the season when you play against the best so that you can see where is your level. Good preparation for Australian Open.’
She is certainly at a very good level at the moment, and she will give Konta a very good fight.
This will be the first WTA meeting between the two players, and it has all the makings of an excellent contest. It will be a real test of Konta’s patience, as the dynamic Kasatkina moves superbly around the court, and doesn’t shirk a chance to step in and take the ball on.
Having conquered the number one player in the world, nothing else Kasatkina does from here and beyond will come as a real surprise.