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Hot streak against rival means little, says Konta

 

Kicking on: Johanna Konta shows a new set of skills during practice at SW19
Kicking on: Johanna Konta shows a new set of skills during practice at SW19

By Eleanor Crooks

Johanna Konta played down the psychological advantage she will have over Sloane Stephens when they play each other once again in the third round of Wimbledon today.

It will be a third meeting in two months between the British No.1 and the former US Open champion, and Konta will be chasing a hat-trick of victories.

After battling to a three-set win at the Italian Open in Rome in May, Konta produced arguably the performance of her career to defeat Stephens in the quarter-finals of the French Open for the loss of just five games.

This will be the third different surface on which they have met this season, with Konta also winning on hard courts in Brisbane in January, and grass should favour the British player more than the other two.

But Konta does not feel she is a significant favourite, saying: "I don't see it like that. Obviously what I do take from having played her recently is that I've got a fresh take on what her ball is like, what it's like to be on court against her.

"In terms of the challenges that come in the match, they will be different than they were in Paris, Rome or Brisbane.

"One, we're going to be playing on a different surface. Two, we're constantly adapting, trying to find different ways to challenge each other.

"Like in every other match I've played her this year, it's going to be a tough match. There's no guarantees for it to go my way and no guarantees for it to go her way. I'm just looking forward to playing that game."

Konta's performance against Stephens in Paris was the peak of her remarkable clay-court campaign.

Chris Evert, who was working for TV, said afterwards: "I am speechless, and not many matches make me speechless."

Stephens had reached the Roland Garros final in 2018 but she was blown off the court by a display of power and precision from Konta, who dropped only one point on serve in the second set.

"I definitely played a very good match," said the 28-year-old. "I think I played a consistently good match, which made it difficult for Sloane to get a hold, get any momentum. I think that probably made it tough for her."

Konta did not pull up any trees in her grass-court warm-up events but has not put a foot wrong at Wimbledon so far in victories over Ana Bogdan and Katerina Siniakova.

Stephens, meanwhile, has found grass more to her liking this year and is bidding to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time since 2013.

For only the second time in the last 33 years, there are two British women through to the third round.

It would be a major shock if more than one made it any further, though, with Harriet Dart facing the formidable task of trying to stop World No.1 Ashleigh Barty's winning run.

The Australian has won 14 straight matches, taking in her maiden Grand Slam title in Paris and another tournament win in Birmingham that propelled her to the top of the rankings.

Dart had never won a main draw match at a Grand Slam prior to this week.

The 22-year-old said: "I'm playing the best player in the world at the moment and whose form has been unbelievable. It's just a great opportunity for me to see where my tennis is at.

"I think this week I've handled a lot of situations pretty well. I'm happy about that. I think mentally I'm improving all the time."

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