In what could be the most intriguing match of the 2018 Silicon Valley Classic draw, 23-time Major champion and sixth seed Serena Williams will begin her North American hard-court campaign against former top-five player Johanna Konta in the first round of competition.
This interesting battle between two hard-hitters will be the highlight of Tuesday’s night session, with the American coming into the encounter as the overwhelming favourite though the Brit will be looking to cause the huge upset here in San Jose, where they are holding the tournament for the first time in history having taken over Stanford.
Recent form: Serena enjoys a period of resurgence
After a relatively slow start into her comeback which saw her unable to achieve her desired results having gone 2-2 in her first tournaments back, Williams finally found her invincible and unstoppable form in the past few months. The American made her return to a Grand Slam at the French Open, storming to the fourth round before withdrawing from a highly-anticipated fourth-round clash against rival Maria Sharapova. Williams defeated quality players like Ashleigh Barty and Julia Goerges along the way.
She then made her first appearance at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club since 2016, and the 23-time Major champion found herself returning to the biggest stages of the sport as she reached yet another Grand Slam final on just her second attempt. Excellent wins over Goerges and Camila Giorgi saw Williams storming back into the final for the 10th time in her career. However, she put in a lacklustre performance as she fell to Angelique Kerber in straight sets, but nonetheless, her second-placed finish allowed her to rise back into the top-30 of the rankings.
Recent form: Konta’s dismal season continues
Having started the year as the world number nine after ending 2017 on a disappointing five-match losing streak, Konta seemed to have found momentum after starting the new year with an excellent win over Madison Keys at the Brisbane International. However, everything went haywire from there onwards as the Brit’s run stopped in the quarterfinals before she fell at the first hurdle of her Sydney title defence.
Her early exit at the Australian Open saw her dropping out of the top-10 for the first time in 10 months, and she failed to reach a quarterfinal through the North American hard-court and clay-court season. The peak of her season came at the Nature Valley International, where she reached the final on her home ground before losing the Ashleigh Barty. Nonetheless, Konta was unable to replicate her top-form at most tournaments and now finds herself sitting at the 48th position in the rankings after failing to defend her Wimbledon semifinal points.
Head to Head: Serena has the edge
The pair has only met once in the past — their quarterfinal affair at the 2017 Australian Open where Williams ended up as the eventual champion. The American triumphed over the Brit with a commanding 6-2, 6-3 scoreline and extraordinarily, Konta went into the match as the slight favourite considering her red-hot form which caused many to label her as the favourite for the title.
Nonetheless, Williams came up with a classic performance to oust Konta in just little over an hour, and she will be looking for her second consecutive win over the former top-10 player. Though, Konta has faced Serena’s sister, Venus Williams, on multiple occasions but also trails 3-4 in their head-to-head record.
Match Analysis: How prepared are both players?
Konta will need to find her red-hot 2017 form which pushed her up to a career-high ranking of four, in order to have a decent chance to complete the unbelievable, upsetting the 23-time Major champion. She must find the consistency in her not-so-consistent baseline game although a bad day in the office from Williams will definitely help. However, judging by Williams’ recent form, it will be hard to see her not performing to her usual standards even though this is just her first match of the US Open Series.
After Williams’ run to the Wimbledon final, she proved that she is truly back to the biggest stages of tennis and ready to compete for the biggest titles once more. The American seems to be running high on confidence and should have no qualms about grabbing the win on Tuesday night. Her game triumphs over Konta’s in almost every aspect, and she would be able to overpower the former top-10 player without facing any huge troubles.