Johanna Konta carries the hopes of the home crowd at this year’s Wimbledon as the highest seeded Briton in the women’s draw. With that seeding comes significant expectation. Her tournament begins against 21-year-old world #103 Natalia Vikhlyantseva, who is competing in just her second Wimbledon. Vikhlyantseva has never won a match at the Championships after losing first round last year. Who will come out on top?
Considering Vikhlyantseva’s relative youth, it is no surprise that these two have never met on Tour. The young Russian has played in just six Grand Slams so far in her career, and her solitary win at this level came at the 2017 Australian Open. Konta, in contrast, has made a couple of runs deep into Grand Slam events in the last couple of years. She made a semifinal and a quarterfinal at the 2016 and 2017 Australian Open’s respectively, and at this event last year made it to the last four.
Last time out
After another first round loss in Paris, Konta made a reasonable start to the grass court season. Her most recent event was in Eastbourne, where she made it through to the round of 16 before being beaten in three sets by world #2 Caroline Wozniacki. Prior to that she was beaten in the first round at Birmingham, but a week earlier she made the final at Nottingham where she lost in three sets to Ashleigh Barty of Australia.
Vikhlyantseva hasn’t had as much to cheer about. At Devonshire Park, she won through to the main draw impressively only to be defeated in first round action by Hsieh Su-wei. Before that, she failed to qualify for Birmingham, and in Rosmalen a week earlier she was knocked out in the first round by Kiki Bertens. She did, at least, put up a good fight in that match, losing in a third set tiebreaker to the number three seed.
How do they match up?
Both of these women are well capable of playing their best tennis on grass. Each of them has a strong baseline game, and prefers to be the aggressor in the rally, so expect them to both try to force the issue early. Konta also boasts a powerful serve, and this is a clear area of advantage for her in this match up, with the fast grass courts at Wimbledon rewarding big servers, particularly in the current hot conditions.
Where Vikhlyantseva may struggle is with her consistency. She often plays like an inexperienced 21-year-old, with plenty of aggression but a habit of committing too many unforced errors. This lack of consistency may ultimately cost her against the more experienced Konta, though she has shown a propensity in the past to lift her game against more highly ranked opponents and could do so against Konta.
The result of this match is certainly no foregone conclusion. Vikhlyantseva was ranked just outside the top 50 as recently as last year, and is more than capable of matching it with the better players on the circuit. Konta, however, has significantly more experience at Wimbledon and is in good form heading into the tournament. That, coupled with the backing of the British crowd, should be enough to see her over the line in two close sets.