Konta reigns Down Under
Tennis: British number one cruises to Sydney win as Evansmakes final
Johanna Konta defeated Agnieszka Radwanska to win the Apia International title in Sydney and boost hopes that a bigger trophy could follow in two weeks.
The British number one’s stellar performance in a 6-4, 6-2 victory established her firmly as one of the favourites for the Australian Open, which starts on Monday.
Britain could yet boast both the women’s and men’s champions in Sydney, withDanEvansdefeating Andrey Kuznetsov to reach his first ATP Tour final, while Scot Jamie Murray is in the doubles final.
Konta, playing in the city of her birth, did not drop a set all week as she marched through a high-class field.
She had never previously beaten worldnumberthree Radwanska but in their third meeting Konta simply overpowered the wily Pole, hitting 32 winners.
If anything, it was Radwanska who was flattered by the scoreline, and she said afterwards: “I can’t remember playing someone this consistent and at that level.”
Konta announced herself as a potential threat at the latter stages of grand slams 12 months ago with a surprise run to the semifinals in Melbourne.
A year later, she heads to the year’s first grand slam as a top-10 player and now a two-time winner on the WTA Tour after adding to her maiden title in Stanford last summer.
The 25-year-old would be even shorter odds to triumph at the Australian but for a tough drawthat could see her facing Caroline Wozniacki, Dominika Cibulkova, Karolina Pliskova and Serena Williams before the final.
Konta, playing in just her second tournament under the guidance of new coach Wim Fissette, said she felt wiser and more resilient than 12 months ago.
Among the crowd for the final were several family members, including her sister, nieces and nephews, and she said winning in Sydney was special.
Konta said: “I’m really pleased with the amount of matches I’ve been able to play. I take it as a nice reward for all the hard work.”
A day after claiming his first win against a top-10 player, when he knocked out Dominic Thiem, Evans again showed the immense talent he possesses with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory against Russian Kuznetsov.
It is a change in attitude that has turned the Birmingham player’s career around and he maintained his focus superbly after Kuznetsov fought back to level the match.
Evans, who is already guaranteed to climb to a new career-high ranking just outside the top 50, will play Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller in the final.
He said: “It was a good match. I feel pretty tired but I might not get this opportunity in a final for a while. It’s great that Jowon. Hopefully Jamie wins and hopefully I do, too.” Petra Kvitova is making good progress in her recovery from careerthreatening hand injuries.
The two-time Wimbledon champion was attacked in her home by an intruder last month and suffered damage to tendons and nerves in her dominant left hand.
Accompanied by a picture of her smiling in a coffee shop, Kvitova posted on Instagram: “Hello everyone, I wanted to let youknowa little bit of good news.
“I finally had all the stitches removed from my hand this week, which
“I’m working very hard on my rehab and staying positive”
means it is healing well after the operation.
“I am happy it is just me and my hand now. I’m working very hard on my rehab and staying positive as always.”
Kv i t o v a , who has reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open and French Open but only the quarter-finals at the US Open, needed surgery lasting nearly four hours following the attack at her apartment in the Czech town of Prostejov on December 20.
The popular 26-year-old, who took home a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics last summer, was told by her surgeon she would not be able to hold a racket for three months after the operation, with a return to the court estimated another three months after that.
SEALED WITH A KISS: Johanna Konta celebrates with the trophy after winning the Apia International in Sydney yesterday
Final say: Dan Evans plays today