One of the must-watch matches in the draw of the Brisbane International, the highly-anticipated encounter between world number nine Johanna Konta and US Open finalist Madison Keys lived up to its hype as they played out a high-quality encounter lasting 130 minutes, with the Brit ultimately prevailing in this cruel first-round match-up in Pat Rafter Arena.
Konta, who entered 2018 on a five-match losing streak, has a ton of points to defend in January, and this win over a quality player would be extremely confidence-boosting for the Brit, putting up a decent serving performance to grab the win and seal her ticket to the second round, where she would face home favourite Ajla Tomljanovic in another match played in the Pat Rafter Arena.
Keys steals the first set
The American had a tricky start to the match, as she was fearlessly going for her shots but failed to get the rhythm, which resulted in a couple of unforced errors. Nonetheless, it also came with multiple winners, grabbing the opening service hold. Similarly, Konta was also flawless on her serve, and the returners only combined to win just seven points in the first five games of the encounter.
As mentioned in our preview, we said that it would be a hard-hitting match-up, and it did not disappoint as both players were dominating their serves while not letting loose. It could be considered a serving masterclass by both Keys and Konta, but the American threatened to make the first breakthrough but failed to convert a break point after sending a second-serve return wild.
Keys has always struggled with her second serves — and today wasn’t an exception as a double fault gifted Konta with her first chance to break. Nonetheless, her incredibly powerful first serves saved her from the brink, allowing her to remain level on the scoreboard. It was break points galore though neither was able to convert, and Konta soon found herself down 4-5, where the pressure affected her as unforced errors started to come off her racquet. Hence, Keys took the first break of the match, clinching the first set 6-4 after 44 minutes of play.
Konta produces perfect reply
The second set was once again serve-dominated, and this time it was even more straightforward. All it took was just a slight misfocus by Keys and the outcome of the set was decided. The fifth game witnessed the American committing four consecutive errors, allowing Konta to make the breakthrough. 15 out of a possible 51 points were won by returners, and the Brit showed her tough fighting spirit by fighting back from the brink.
Konta takes her chances and seals the win
Everything was going wrong for Keys as another slew of errors saw her trail by an early break in the deciding set. Konta was extremely solid, though faced a tough challenge in the second game as she had to fend off multiple break points which allowed her to consolidate the break in the toughest possible way.
Keys would rue all her missed opportunities, as the Konta serve grew invincible as the final set progressed. Although the American put up a spirited display to hang in there, the Brit was just too good eventually, claiming the win within two hours and 10 minutes of play.