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Johanna Konta vs Donna Vekic Aegon Open tennis live: Konta targets first grass court title in Nottingham

Andrew Hendrie in WTA Tour 18 Jun 2017
  • Johanna Konta vs Donna Vekic is live from Nottingham at 3.00pm local time/BST
  • Konta won their only previous meeting in straight sets at Cincinnati last year
Johanna Konta (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images for LTA)

Johanna Konta goes for a fourth career title and a first on grass when she takes on 20-year-old Donna Vekic in Sunday’s Aegon Open final in Nottingham.

After enduring a disappointing clay court season, Johanna Konta has returned to top form on the grass of Nottingham, and the Sydney-born Brit targets a first title on the surface on Sunday against young gun Donna Vekic of Croatia. Konta may be six years older than Vekic, but the youngster already has a final appearance on grass under her belt after finishing runner-up at Birmingham in 2013. While Vekic has struggled to crack the top tiers of tennis since her swashbuckling teenage years, she’s been playing very well this week in Nottingham - could she possibly upset top seed Konta to win a second WTA title and first since 2014? Konta and Vekic take to court at 3.00pm local time on Sunday.

Konta only won two matches throughout the entire European clay court season and lost in the opening round of the French Open, but the 26-year-old has already doubled that tally at the Aegon Open in Nottingham this week, and now she is just one victory away from landing a fourth WTA title and a third of the season.

It’s been a no-nonsense week from Konta, who has largely cruised into her first grass final after straight set victories over Tara Moore, Yanina Wickmayer, Ashleigh Barty and Magdalena Rybarikova. After coming out of seemingly nowhere to become a genuine top 10 player over the last 12 months, Konta says she is always searching for ways to improve her game.

“I’m looking to constantly improve and evolve as a player, regardless of surface,” Konta said in her post-match press conference after beating Rybarikova in Saturday’s semi-finals.
“The good thing is that the things that you work on do transfer from surface to surface. I’d like to think I’ve improved in all areas of my game since last year this time, and I’m glad that it’s also coming through on the grass.”

After a tremendous breakout season in 2016 that featured a run to the Australian Open semi-finals and a maiden WTA title at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, Konta has taken her game to new heights this year. She began the year with a semi-final run in Shenzhen before going on a nine-match (and 18-set) winning streak in capturing the Premier-level Apia International title in Sydney and making the Australian Open quarter-finals, where it took on-fire eventual champion Serena Williams to stop her.

Niggling injuries forced Konta out of the Middle East swing in Doha and Dubai, but after returning in Indian Wells and falling in the third round, she secured the biggest title of her career in Miami, winning the Premier Mandatory silverware with back-to-back-to-back wins over Simona Halep, Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki. Now Konta, ranked No. 8 in the world, looks to add a third title of 2017 to her collection in Nottingham.

Donna Vekic (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Donna Vekic meanwhile is searching for her second career title at the Aegon Open. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the whirlwind rise of Vekic a few years ago - she was just 16 when she made her first two WTA finals at Tashkent in 2012 and the Premier-level grass event in Birmingham in 2013, while she won her one and only WTA title to date in Kuala Lumpur in 2014, defeating Dominika Cibulkova in the final.

However Vekic, who is currently dating men’s World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka, sort of lost her way as she attempted to back up those successful seasons, and her ranking dropped to as low as 177 in 2015, while she barely won matches at tour-level in 2016 as people began to question when - if ever - she was going to deliver on that early potential.

But Vekic has improved significantly in 2017, winning 23 matches in all competitions, including playing in most of the big tournaments such as the Australian Open (second round), Indian Wells (second round), Miami (first round), Madrid (qualified and made the R32), Rome (qualified but lost to Garcia in R1) and the French Open, where she lost in the first round to Shuai Zhang. The 20-year-old also made the R16 after qualifying for the Premier-level St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, but she’s been playing the best tennis of her season in Nottingham this week beating Shelby Rogers, Julia Boserup and Maria Sakkari in straight sets before toughing out a superb 7-6(5) 3-6 7-6(4) victory over former top five player Lucie Safarova in the semi-finals.

“I’m very happy to be in my first final of the year,” Vekic said. “I’ve been playing well all year and I’ve been looking forward to the grass court season, so I’m happy that my first final is on the grass.”

This will be the second meeting on tour between the pair after Konta won their R32 Cincinnati clash 6-2 6-3 last year. Konta obviously starts as favourite, but she can’t afford to underestimate Vekic, who has been sensational this week and has been serving very well - she fired 16 aces past Safarova. I think Konta will be too strong in the end, but Vekic will make her work for it.

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Johanna Konta vs Donna Vekic Aegon Open tennis live: Konta targets first grass court title in Nottingham

Johanna Konta goes for a fourth career title and a first on grass when she takes on 20-year-old Donna Vekic in Sunday’s Aegon Open final in Nottingham.

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