By Jane Voigt
March 31, 2017 — Caroline Wozniacki has been hauling herself around the world for 12 years on tour. She was 15 when she set off. After 25 career titles and a lengthy time off last year, the Dane is poised to up her status in tennis when she vies for her first WTA Premier Mandatory title from Miami tomorrow.
The same holds true for Johanna Konta of Great Britain. She will stand across the net from Wozniacki aiming for the same goal — to win her first Miami title.
In contrast to Wozniacki, Konta has only 2 career titles. But, she beat Wozniacki resoundingly in Melbourne this year in the third round, 6-3, 6-1, in their only meeting to date. Konta hit 31 winners to Wozniacki’s 6 and didn’t face any break points on serve.
Many say her new coaching relationship with Wim Fissette is the reason and motivation behind her run Down Under and in Miami. Fissette’s resume is highlighted by coaching stints with former number ones Victoria Azarenka and Kim Clijsters, plus Simona Halep. Konta defeated the Romanian in a come-back quarterfinal encounter, 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-2.
“I really didn’t think too much of what the scoreline was,” Konta told the press, after that match. “There wasn’t that much momentum at that point in that match necessarily in her corner. I just stayed very aware that although she was serving for the match, I was still very much there. I fought for every point and tried to stay present.”
Konta’s rise in the rankings has been a recent phenomena. In 2014 she ended the year ranked No. 150; and, this week in south Florida she’s seeded No. 10. Konta is the top-ranked player in Great Britain and the first to break into the top ten of women’s tennis from her country (October, 2016) in 30 years. Her best Grand Slam result came last year when she reached the semifinal of The Australian Open and appeared in the quarterfinal at the Rio Olympics.
Although she plays under the Union Jack, Konta was born to Hungarian parents in Sydney, Australia. She moved to England when she was 14, becoming a citizen in 2012.
This is only Konta’s second trip to Crandon Park, as well. Last year she lost in her quarterfinal to eventual champion, Azarenka, who is out tending to her infant son, Alexander.
Her serve is her biggest weapon, along with an aggressive baseline strategy. During the Rio Olympics, she played mixed doubles with Andy Murray where she demonstrated an embarrassing lack of volley skills. Since then, she has beefed up that part of her game giving her more options. That will be important in the final, as both players baseline orientation could mean long rallies in the hot Florida sun. With Wozniacki’s penchant to grind out points, Konta could save crucial energy by cutting points short at the net.
“It’s very important to stay hydrated out there,” she began, after defeating Halep. “I had to go off court after the second set to change clothes. They weighed about five kilos worth of sweat. Quite gross.”
In her semifinal yesterday Konta eliminated the sentimental favorite, Venus Williams, 6-4, 7-5, yesterday.
“I think the first time I played her was in Wuhan [China],” Konta told the press. “Definitely going on court then it was [difficult], but I’ve been lucky enough to have played her a few times since then. Every time you get to go on court against such a champion I think you’ve always got to take it as such a privilege. I think I still look at it as a great honor.”
Wozniacki earned her berth in the final, after wearing down the second seed, Karolina Pliskova, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1. The victory had to have been sweet for the Dane. Pliskova defeated Caroline in the Doha final in February.
“It was definitely a mental grind,” Wozniacki said later, as reported by Reuters. “Having two or three set points in that first set and ending up losing it is kind of depressing, but I got a good start to the second set and fitness is something I’m working really hard on every day.”
Saturday’s final will be Konta’s second final of the season. She won Sydney in January, defeating Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-4, 6-2. As mentioned, Wozniacki lost in Doha. She also lost to in the Dubai final to Elina Svitolina.
“Against Caroline, I’m definitely going to be looking forward to playing a lot of balls and a lot of tough points,” Konta said. “She’s one of the best athletes in the game. She ran a marathon for goodness sake. Hopefully we’ll give a great match for the final.”