There was bound to be upsets in the bottom half of the 2019 French Open, but I don’t think many would have thought that either Johanna Konta or Marketa Vondrousova would be competing for a spot in their first ever Grand Slam final. Who will win? Read on for the preview…
Roland Garros, Semifinal
 Johanna Konta vs Marketa Vondrousova
Around a year ago at Wimbledon, Johanna Konta had suffered a straight-set loss to Dominika Cibulkova in the second round. Failing to defend her semifinal its points from 2017, Konta dropped to No.48 in the rankings, her lowest ever ranking since January 2016. However all Konta needed was just one tournament to find back her rhythm and game, and that was during the Fed Cup where she scored four straight wins to bring the Great Britain team back to the World Group 2 playoffs. Since February, Konta has amassed a 26-6 win-loss record, which includes two finals in Rabat and Rome, and now a semifinal run at the French Open. Having seen her matches this fortnight, you would have never known she has not one a single main draw match in Paris, losing in the first round here for the past four years. It’s amazing how Konta’s game looks so suited to the clay courts right now because in 2016, she only had two wins on clay; in 2017 and 2018, she had three; and now in 2019, she has 15 wins on the clay and still counting!
Konta’s best match of the fortnight definitely was against last year’s finalist Sloane Stephens. After Stephens’ impeccable display of counter-punching against Garbine Muguruza in the previous round, the scales tipped in favour of Stephens to come up trumps in this encounter. It was not to be though as Konta fired brilliant serves and moved Stephens from left to right, breaking down the backhand of the American. Konta broke early in the second set and although Stephens kept amping the pressure with easy service games, Konta was not to be derailed though as she dropped just one point in the second set (it was a double fault!). Other than the serve, Konta was impressive with her high balls and drop shots, and was just way too consistent and powerful for the American. Konta struck 6 aces, won 87% of first serves points and hit 25 winners to just 13 unforced errors.
Marketa Vondrousova first broke onto the tour in April 2017, coming through qualifying to claim her first title in Biel. Vondrousova amassed a 51-12 win-loss record in 2017 and was primed for bigger things in 2018. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to back it up in her sophomore year, but it has all changed in 2019. It’s been upwards and onwards since the Australian Open – her results since then: Budapest final, Indian Wells and Miami quarterfinals, Istanbul final, Rome quarters and now her first ever Grand Slam semifinal at the French Open. The draw did open for Vondrousova after Angelique Kerber’s exit in the first round, but nonetheless this run has been very impressive from the Czech. Her victims this fortnight are Wang Yafan, Anastasia Potapova, Carla Suarez Navarro, Anastasija Sevastova and Petra Martic in a rollercoaster straight-set battle to secure her spot in the semifinals.
Head to head: The head to head is tied at one win apiece. Just a couple of weeks ago in Rome, Konta scored a 6-3 3-6 6-1 in the quarterfinals, where Vondrousova looked exhausted from her earlier exploits.
Thoughts: It’s impossible to call this one. In terms of weapons, both are pretty much equal. Vondrousova’s well known for the drop shot but Konta has shown in the last few weeks that she has tons of variety in her arsenal as well. Konta has very rigid, solid and powerful groundstrokes, but Vondrousova has the dangerous and loopy lefty forehand that can cause anyone troubles.
In terms of nerves, perhaps Vondrousova might feel extra pressure. She’s in her first ever Grand Slam semifinal and she’s just 19. Meanwhile Konta has made Slam semifinals in the Australian Open and Wimbledon and obviously is a former top ten player. But then again, Vondrousova could be coming in with a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude and her mental strength in the quarterfinals against Martic was so impressive.
No idea which way this will go. Edge perhaps to Konta after her impressive serving against Stephens and as the slight favourite in this one, I think she will deliver.
Final Prediction: Johanna Konta d. Marketa Vondrousova in three sets
Thanks for reading!