After a struggle with form in 2018, Johanna Konta seems to have found her feet again, and today she will take the court to face Barbora Strycova. The prize at stake is a place in Wimbledon’s semi-finals, a stage Konta reached two years ago before losing to Serena Williams. It’s also a step further than Strycova has managed at a Slam before, and the Czech will enter this match as an underdog.
Konta has made the semi-finals at three of the four majors, and the next step is clearly to go one better and make a final. However, it would be putting the cart before the horse to even talk about a semi-final until she has played this match against a player currently ranked above her in the world. Though Konta, with home advantage and a greater pedigree, is sure to be favourite, this will be a keenly-fought match; below, we’ll go through some of the wagering possibilities raised by what will be a tense contest.
Konta finds her edge at the right time
Having enjoyed an excellent few years that saw her rise to the position of No. 3 in the World Rankings, Jo Konta found last year tough. Losing matches she would have been favoured to win, and failing to reach the latter stages of major tournaments, Konta fell out of the top 100 and, even as recently as March of this year, was struggling so badly that she lost ten games in a row against China’s Qiang Wang in Miami, one of a string of poor performances. Since then, Konta has mounted an unmistakable comeback, and made her way to the semi-finals at the French Open before losing out to Marketa Vondrousova.
Whatever it is that has seen this turnaround for the Eastbourne resident, it seems to have stuck so far at Wimbledon. Seeds Sloane Stephens and Petra Kvitova have been bowled over as part of this run, and Konta now faces Strycova, a solid player but one who has nonetheless never really cracked the later stages of a Grand Slam event. Paddy Power have Konta set at 13/5 to win the match by two sets to one, and those are odds worth taking.
Strycova not set to be a pushover
The confidence running around Wimbledon that Jo Konta will sail through to the semi-final is something inherent in the British tennis spirit. The same fans who somehow genuinely believed Tim Henman would defeat Pete Sampras when they took to Centre Court – well, they believe in their players, sometimes to ridiculous levels. And they bet, which might explain the rather uneven odds you’ll find for a match that is by no means a foregone conclusion. Konta may well have knocked out two seeds to get here, but so has Strycova. Kiki Bertens and Elise Mertens have both been on the wrong end of her ire here, and Konta will be aware of that.
What might stand to the home favourite’s advantage is that Strycova is still active in the doubles at this tournament, and has a few more matches in her legs – albeit two near-walkovers alongside Hsieh Su-Wei. Strycova will not back down here, and would be good value to win a set, but as the match goes on Konta’s freshness will become a factor. The very real chance that this match will go the distance means that odds of 11/10 with Coral that there will be more than 22.5 games in the match are appealing. Even if three sets each ended 6-2, that would make for a winning bet. The same would be true of a straight-sets win by 7-5, 7-5, another perfectly realistic outcome.
Joy for the home crowd
While the prize for winning this match may yet be another semi-final against Serena Williams – hardly an easy experience for any player – there is plenty of reason for Konta to feel good about her chances of being the first British woman to reach a Wimbledon singles final since Virginia Wade won in 1977. Certainly, the draw is as open as it has been in years, and Konta has the advantage of a home crowd behind her. That said, there is a lot of work to be done and Strycova’s persistence is not going to make it a cakewalk.
While it makes sense to back Konta to progress, it would be unwise to expect this match to be over and done with in short order, and it is well worth looking at Ladbrokes’ odds of 8/5 on the match going to a third and final set. Who wins from there could still be up for debate, but there is no doubt that this is set to be a spectacle for the viewer – particularly if they happen to be a neutral.