One of the first titles of 2017 will be handed out when 2016 U.S. Open quarter-finalist Ana Konjuh takes on American Lauren Davis in the final of the ASB Classic. Konjuh will be looking for her second career title, having previously won Nottingham in 2015. Davis is looking for her maiden title.
Davis won the only match between the two at this very event in 2014 in the second round, but Konjuh was a 16-year old beginner and is a much different player entering this match.
Road to the final
Konjuh was forced to play her first two matches in one day, defeating Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the first round before taking a short break and coming back to crush Yanina Wickmayer 6-1, 6-2 in the second round. Naomi Osaka gave the 19-year old a virtual walkover in the quarter-finals, retiring after just three games. The semi-finals saw Konjuh outlast Julia Goerges 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to reach the final.
Davis upset fifth seed Kiki Bertens 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the first round. The second round saw a straightforward 6-3, 6-3 win over Kurumi Nara. Another straight sets win was to follow in the form of a 6-1, 7-6 (4) victory over fourth seed Barbora Strycova in the quarter-finals. The semi-final match against seventh seed Jelena Ostapenko gave the American her first big test as she dropped the opening set 6-4 before recovering to take the second by the same scoreline and was leading 4-1 in the third when Ostapenko quit.
How they match up
This is a complete contrast in styles as Konjuh will want to play offensive tennis from the first ball, dictating with her serve and forehand while Davis will seek to use her speed and retrieving skills to keep the Croat at bay. She does have an edge in movement, but that may be compromised as she was treated for a thigh issue in the match against Ostapenko. The issue for the American is, as it was in her previous two finals against Wickmayer in Washington D.C. and Oceane Dodin in Quebec City is that the bigger hitters tend to overpower the smaller Davis, bullying her around the court.
Konjuh has also made some small adjustments such as keeping her head upright during her serve motion whereas it dropped before and slowing down during rallies, pacing herself better and using her power to greater effect, the adjustments attributed to new coach Goran Prpic. Against Davis, the teenager will have the outcome of points on her racket and how clean her ground game is could be the difference between her second career title or Davis' first.
It's been a fabulous week for both players with each one facing tests to get to this point and although Konjuh can be error-prone with her big game at times, she seems to be playing with more control and if this continues, Davis is helpless to do much about it.
Prediction: Ana Konjuh in two sets.