WTA Dubai quarter-final preview: Angelique Kerber vs Ana Konjuh

WTA Dubai quarter-final preview: Angelique Kerber vs Ana Konjuh

As the German continues her quest to regain the top spot in the rankings, she runs into the hard-hitting, steadily improving Croatian.

john-lupo
John Lupo

Top seed Angelique Kerber faces unseeded Croatian Ana Konjuh in the quarterfinals of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

How they got here

Kerber received a first round bye. She then started her tournament with straight-set wins over countrywoman Mona Barthel 6-4 6-3 in the second round followed by a 6-2 6-3 third round victory over Monica Puig, the first meeting between the two since the Puerto Rican stunned the German in the finals of the Olympics.

Kerber has won all four sets she's played in Dubai/Photo: Tom Gulat/Getty Images
Kerber has won all four sets she's played in Dubai | Photo: Tom Gulat/Getty Images

Konjuh has had a far more difficult time reaching the last eight. After a dominant first round win over Shuai Zhang by a 6-0 6-1 score, she upset 12th seed Samantha Stosur 6-4 6-3 and followed that with another surprise, 3-6 6-4 7-6 (3) over eighth seed Elena Vesnina in round three.

Head-to-head

Kerber has won the only previous meeting between the two: a 6-4 6-3 second round victory in the 2015 Bank of The West Classic.

How they match up

Kerber is one of the steadiest players on tour, able to play offence or defence based on the situation. She often frustrates players with Konjuh's game style, using their power against them. The Croat has often been a victim of her own wildness, but she's shown control not often seen in the past, harnessing her power to utilise her powerful game to overwhelm Stosur and Vesnina.

Konjuh's serve is one of her biggest weapons in her game/Photo: Tom Dulat/Getty Images
Konjuh's serve is one of her biggest weapons in her game | Photo: Tom Dulat/Getty Images

The teenager also has a much better serve with power and pace, often able to overpower opponents while Kerber relies on accuracy and placement. She'll be under pressure to defend her serve and will want to play longer rallies whereas Konjuh will want to play shorter points, although she's won her fair share of extended rallies in the tournament. Fatigue could be a factor for the 19-year old as she played a long match against Vesnina and has to turn around 24 hours later to play the top seed.

Outlook

Kerber had struggled coming into Dubai but has looked impressive so far in the event, especially in her last match, dominating Puig from start to finish. The German is under a lot of pressure, needing to win the tournament to regain the top spot in the WTA rankings from Serena Williams.

Konjuh has surprised in reaching the last eight and is playing well on hard courts this year with a finals appearance in Auckland to her name. She has no pressure on her in this match, coming in as the underdog and having less to lose than her higher-ranked opponent.

It's hard to predict who will win this match simply because Kerber's form has been well below her normal standards coming into the Middle East while Konjuh has quickly begun to establish herself as a major threat to the top players on tour. In a match that should come down to the wire, the Croat will push the German to the edge, but Kerber's form has convinced many she'll barely escape this match with a semifinal berth.

Prediction: Kerber in 3 extremely close sets

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