US Open: Johanna Konta cruises past Bethanie Mattek-Sands

Johanna Konta looked mightily impressive on serve as she dispatched American opponent Bethanie Mattek-Sands in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3, in the first round of the US Open.

The British number one reached the fourth round in New York last year but faced a tough opener in the form of American Mattek-Sands, a wildcard who thrives on the big stage. This encounter was the pair’s first meeting, with both players enjoying good runs at the Olympics in Rio a couple of weeks ago after Konta reached the quarterfinals in singles and her opponent won gold in the mixed doubles with partner Jack Sock.

Quick fire start from Konta

The 13th seed looked to settle her early nerves out on the brand new 8,000 capacity Grandstand court by seeking to secure an immediate break after hitting a crosscourt forehand winner to earn two opportunities. The American hit back well, first with an unreturnable serve, before firing a forehand crosscourt winner on her way to an opening hold. Konta then proceeded to get her side of the scoreboard moving with a comprehensive hold to love.

Mattek-Sands found herself under further pressure on serve in the third game as an unforced error left her break point down. The British number one took her chance on this occasion, firing a crosscourt forehand pass to take a 2-1 lead. The first serve and the backhand were really firing for the world number 14 as she raced into a 5-3 lead, having dropped just three points on her own serve.

The world number 109 was hoping to force her opponent to serve for the first set, but squandered a couple of game points before Konta nailed a lob on the run to move to set point. The Brit took her chance, forcing Mattek-Sands to put the reflex volley wide to wrap up the set 6-3 in 38 minutes.

Mattek-Sands captured the gold medal with Jack Sock in the mixed doubles in Rio this summer. Photo: Getty
Mattek-Sands captured the gold medal with Jack Sock in the mixed doubles in Rio this summer. Photo: Getty

Continued brilliance from the Brit in the second set

The British number one left herself with a bit of work to do on serve in the opening game of the second set after a first double fault left her down 15-30. Konta responded impressively, firing down more strong first serves to get off to a good start in set number two.

The Brit struck another well-executed lob winner in the American’s second service game before a netted backhand handed the 13th seed two break points. On this occasion, Mattek-Sands stood firm, hitting an unreturnable serve followed by an ace before moving to game point. However, just like in the final game of the first set, the wildcard could not get over the line, with the Brit forcing her opponent to produce errors as she secured the break. A hold to love then saw the world number 14 move 3-1 ahead in the second set.

A comprehensive service hold from Mattek-Sands got her confidence up heading into the Brit’s next service game, winning the opening point for the first time. The scoreboard pressure proved telling as a double fault left Konta down 0-30. A backhand cross court winner won the next point for the Brit, but a loose forehand left her facing two break points. Under pressure for the first time in the match, the 13th seed responded by finding her first serve and nailing a forehand winner down the line to move to game point.

The Australian Open semi-finalist squandered the chance and a second game point before facing a third break point. The Brit snuffed out the chance once again with a forehand winner but quickly found herself facing another, which the wildcard squandered with a forehand into the net. With four chances passing her by, it looked liked Mattek-Sands chances of winning the match had also passed by as Konta secured a pivotal hold to take a 5-2 lead.

Konta looked eager to get the match done and dusted in the following game, racing back from 30-0 behind by using both her backhand and forehand to good effect to move to match point. Mattek-Sands used the serve and volley change up nicely to deny her opponent and move on to hold to force the Brit to serve for a place in the second round. The 13th seed served out the match with no problems, holding to love to secure a 6-3, 6-3 win.

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