Miami Open 2017: Johanna Konta beats Caroline Wozniacki for biggest title and career-high No7
The British number one eases past Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets to win the Miami Open
Remarkably for two women born just 10 months apart, now in their mid-20s and both with top-10 experience, the Miami Open’s No11 seed Johanna Konta and No14 seed Caroline Wozniacki, had played each other only once before—and that just a couple of months ago at the Australian Open.
The reason was straightforward. Wozniacki was already winning titles by 2008, just a teenager but with early and profligate talent, and she reached No1 in 2010. Meanwhile, Konta was still years from maturing into the elite ranks.
Her family did not move to the UK until she was 14, she did not achieve British citizenship until 2012, and was plying her trade on the ITF circuit when Wozniacki hit the top.
She made her way by small steps onto the big stages, with signs of what was to come in a run through qualifying to win her first Grand Slam match in 2012. But her real breakthrough began on the grass of home, in Eastbourne in 2015. Ranked 146, she was No47 by the end of the year, and a Grand Slam semi-finalist at the start of 2016.
By now, Wozniacki had accumulated 25 titles while Konta was about to win only her first in Stanford and go on to reach her first Premier Mandatory final in Beijing. But the Dane, struggling with injury and consistency, was down to 74 at the US Open, and although a couple of titles in the Asian swing helped her bounce back inside the top 20, Konta was now ahead: She missed out on the WTA Championships by one spot.
Quite simply, then, there had been little opportunity through their contrasting career paths for them to face one another. But now, in the space of a few weeks, they would meet for a second time—and what a venue they had chosen.
The Miami Open, the first of the WTA’s four big Mandatory tournaments, boasts a draw only a little shy of a Grand Slam: winners here earn big money, big points and big respect. The honours board has been dominated by the likes of Grand Slam champions Serena and Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka, but with two of those women missing this year, Konta and Wozniacki had each made their way to their first final.
Along the way, Konta beat that third champion, Venus Williams, in the semis, having already beaten No3 seed Simona Halep. Meanwhile Wozniacki claimed the scalps of No6 seed Garbine Muguruza and No2 seed Karolina Pliskova. But could she overturn the 75-minute defeat she suffered to Konta in Australia?
Konta came out flying in her signature attacking style, striking hard and deep from the baseline to get a love break. She held for 2-0, but Wozniacki broke back for 2-2. In the blink of an eye, however, Konta had another break, and this time held for 4-2.
But in this seesawing opening, Wozniacki took advantage of some loose forehands from Konta to level at 4-4, only to hand back the break, in part due to two double faults. This time, the Briton fought off two break points to hold for the set, 6-4.
The second set opened with an exchange of breaks, but now Wozniacki’s defensive skills and all-court speed helped her produce a couple of winning lobs and a love hold.
However, the Dane needed a medical time out for taping to her right ankle: would this impede her movement? Well she faced a break point in the fifth game, but an indecisive Konta let it slip and they stayed all square, 3-3.
It was tense stuff, but Konta managed to break in the seventh game for 4-3, as Wozniacki fluffed a short strike off a net cord, and although the two women had 25 points apiece in the set, Konta seemed to be edging to the winning post.
It made a huge difference when she got her first serve into play, but she was failing to do so almost half the time, and returner-par-excellence Wozniacki took advantage. Even so, Konta held for 5-3, and now attacked the Dane’s serve. A drop shot followed by a lob onto the baseline, and she broke to seal the biggest title of her career, 6-3.
Her winning strike rate was outstanding: 33 winners in just 19 games. Wozniacki managed just eight.
So recent has Konta’s rise to the top table been that she only played in her first Miami draw last year, reaching the quarter-finals. With the title this year, the first ever in Miami by a British woman, she will rise to a career-high No7.
The tour now heads to clay, where Konta’s poor results last year mean she boost her ranking this year. But beyond that will be a return to home and to grass. And there, in this form, who knows what she can achieve.