It was the first tour-level meeting between the top two players from Britain as Johanna Konta affirmed her position as the top-ranked Brit by defeating Heather Watson in straight sets at the BNP Paribas Open, almost letting a big lead slip out of her hands in the second set. Nevertheless, the world number 11 eventually sealed up the match in an hour and 34 minutes.
Konta survives early scare
Watson won the coin toss and elected to serve and start the match, hoping to claim a great start to the match. The decision proved to be wise as the lower-ranked Brit held her serve to love after Konta looked rusty on her return having been out of action since the Australian Open in January where she lost to eventual winner Serena Williams in the quarterfinal. Watson was consistently able to dictate the point from the first rally as her deep returns often caused Konta to have some problems, allowing her to earn two break points in her opening return game. The Apia Sydney International champion saved both break points easily with some excellent offensive tennis, returning to deuce.
A wonderfully executed forehand down the line winner then brought up another break point for Watson, who then successfully converted it after Konta sent a forehand long to take the early lead. Konta took full advantage of Watson’s serving inconsistencies as she made an immediate reply to break straight back with the help of three double faults in the game. Konta then fended off a break point in the next game and relied on her powerful forehands to hold onto her service game, with the scores still level at 2-2.
A nervy service game then saw Watson reclaim the lead at 3-2 as Konta hit in some inconsistent returns, with some occasionally going long. After a hold of serve from the top-ranked Brit, there were three consecutive breaks of serve as both players put in some high-quality returns. With the second straight service break, Konta earned the golden opportunity to serve out the first set at 5-4. She made good use of the chance and successfully served out the set comfortably to love as she hit some strong serves to clinch the first set 6-4.
Konta halts Watson’s comeback
An untimely double fault on break point in the opening game of the second set, which lasted around eight minutes, caused Watson the early service break as she was broken for the third consecutive time by her compatriot to fall behind by a set and a break. Konta then won her fourth straight game in the match as she had a second straight service hold to love, affirming her lead in the second set.
After holding her serve comfortably, Watson narrowly missed a forehand down the line shot at 30-30 in Konta’s service game and thus gave her compatriot a game point opportunity, which she won and held her serve. This led to Watson being broken once again, with Konta stepping up her game to go up a double break lead. Everything seemed to be flowing nicely for the 11th seed as the 2016 Beijing finalist held her serve once more to place herself in an advantageous position to close out the match, being just one game away from the victory.
After successfully serving to stay in the set, Watson got one of the breaks back when Konta threw in a couple of unforced errors, hitting a double fault on break point and allowing Watson to extend her lifeline in the match. Watson then sealed the third straight game and her 12th point of the last 14 to lessen the deficit to just one game, but nevertheless, Konta had one more chance to serve out the match in the next game. Going 0-30 up in the game, Watson looked poised for yet another service break but was eventually pegged back by her higher-ranked compatriot as she rattled off four straight points to seal the match and stop the rot.
Konta hit 20 winners past Watson, but it came along with a huge amount of 21 unforced errors as she often misfired her groundstrokes, especially in the first set. It was much worse from Watson as she only put in 13 winners, but had 27 unforced errors produced during the match. Coming along with nine double faults, Watson lost the match because of some crucial points where her errors cost her greatly.