French Open first round preview: Johanna Konta vs Cori Gauff
Konta in action in Rome (Image: Clive Brunskill)

Ninth seed and 2019 French Open semifinalist Johanna Konta will face Cori Gauff in a highly interesting opening round clash tomorrow at Roland Garros, with Gauff set to make her main draw debut in Paris.

Gauff was the junior champion at the French Open just two years ago and, after the tournament was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be making her first ever appearance in the women’s singles draw at just 16 years old. It will be just the fifth main draw at a Grand Slam tournament for the American, currently ranked 51st.

It will be the 27th time that Konta has been in the main draw of a slam and the Brit will be looking to recapture last year’s clay court form. The ninth seed had lost her four previous matches at the French Open prior to 2019 but, after reaching finals in Rabat and Rome, reached her third Grand Slam semifinal at the tournament. She will be hoping to recapture that type of form this year.

Gauff in action in Rome (Image: Pool)
Gauff in action in Rome (Image: Pool)

Unsurprisingly, this is the first career meeting between the two. Konta and Gauff are set to be the third match on Court Suzanne Lenglen tomorrow but there could well be delays due to rain forecast for Paris tomorrow. The winner faces Camila Giorgi or qualifier Martina Trevisan in the second round.

Analysis

There have been glimmers of form for both since the restart, with Gauff reaching the last four at the Top Seed Open and Konta reaching the same stage at the Western and Southern Open, though both have struggled since then. There were opening round losses at both the US Open and in Rome for Gauff, whilst the Brit was able to pick up just one win at each tournament before being defeated.

Serving will likely be key for both as they look to recapture form here. Konta is one of the best servers on tour when she is near her best and will look to use kick and body serves to take control of points from the first strike, as well as place her second serve well. Gauff’s serve is incredibly powerful but is also highly inconsistent. The American regularly hits double figures in her double fault count, and will need to keep that number down against a stronger return such as Konta.

The world number 13 will certainly look to apply pressure on Gauff’s second serve and will be aggressive when at all possible, particularly targeting the American’s forehand which can be vulnerable. Gauff also has an aggressive game style and will certainly look to wrestle control of rallies as they progress, and may also look to frustrate the Brit. The former junior champion is already a strong athlete and is more than capable of defending well under pressure, which could force errors out of Konta.

Konta will look to attack, particularly when returning (Image: Clive Brunskill)
Konta will look to attack, particularly when returning (Image: Clive Brunskill)

Clay is a surface where both have found some success in their careers, though this is certainly a different French Open to those previously. The cold and most likely damp conditions, combined with the new, heaving Wilson balls, will likely slow down the ball and the effect of the groundstrokes of both women. Slower rallies may help Gauff in terms of her defensive skills, though Konta has greater experience which may help her deal with that change in conditions.

Assessment

This was immediately picked out as one of the best first round clashes at Roland Garros this year and it will likely be a tight contest, with a fairly open section of the draw awaiting whoever prevails.

Gauff’s success in the junior tournament two seasons ago shows she is more than comfortable on clay court and will not be bothered by the surface on her main draw, though Konta’s greater experience playing on clay and run last year may help her over the line.

Prediction: Johanna Konta in three sets

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