Johanna Konta kept her return to form going in Rome Saturday beating an in-form Kiki Bertens 5-7, 7-5, 6-2.
“I’m very pleased to be in the final here,” Konta said after the 2-hour, 47-minute win. “It’s my second biggest final behind Miami. That’s a big achievement in my career so far. I’m definitely very conscious and appreciative of this opportunity, of this situation.
“I’ve never really doubted my ability on the surface. I don’t necessarily feel like this is massively out of the blue or super wow. I’m definitely pleased.”
Konta, who already upset Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and yesterday Marketa Vondrousova, now had Bertens in her crosshairs but the Dutchwoman came in off a day of rest (Naomi Osaka withdrew) and on an 8-match win streak after her Madrid win.
Bertens took a tight opener in which Konta couldn’t serve it out. Then she was within two points of the win in the second but this time she couldn’t close the door. Konta took advantage then ran away with the third over a tiring Bertens.
“In the third, I definitely felt that I was able to maintain my level a bit better than her. I think that gave me the upper hand in stringing some more points together. I’m just very happy to have come through.”
Ranked No. 42, the former World No. 4 Konta will now climb back into the Top 30 and earn a French seeding.
Meanwhile, Bertens had a shot a two seed with a win today, but will be three or a four depending if Karolina Pliskova wins tomorrow.
“She played really smart with the drop shots,” Bertens said. “I was all the time getting myself together and trying to push for more energy. But it was not there.”
Pliskova reached her first Rome final by avenging a controversial loss to Maria Sakkari a year before. Pliskova scratched out a tough 6-4, 6-4 victory
Sakkari was in command in the first lead 4-2 before a brief rain stoppage turned the fortunes around for the Czech who took four straight games to grab the lead.
Pliskova then broke Sakkari at 4-5 for the win in the second.
“I’m still not feeling like I would be playing the best tennis,” Pliskova said. “I think the best match was yesterday against Vika. I think it was a good level.
“Super happy because I didn’t feel, not even before the tournament, not even during, that I’m playing amazing. I’m in the final. Especially in this tournament, it means quite a lot to me because I never played well.
“On clay, I was just hoping for some matches, maybe couple, but not for this much. Yeah, really happy before Paris to go this week.”
Pliskova has won five of six from the Brit but they haven’t met on clay since 2011.
“I think she’s improving now, so she’s for sure back at the level where she was,” Pliskova said of Konta. “Of course she’s final in this tournament, so she has to play good tennis.
“Of course, she’s going to be confident. I’m going to be the one with the papers who should win, and also the head-to-head is much better for me. Quite long time we didn’t play. I think never on clay, if I don’t count the first match, which was I think 10 years ago.
“It’s a final, so I think it’s new story always. Yeah, it’s going to be good, I think.”
Konta will seek her 4th career title, Pliskova her 13th. And a first time Rome title for either is at stake.
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