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On-form Konjuh eyes main draw debut

A stretched forehand by Ana Konjuh.
by Dan Imhoff
Tuesday 17 June 2014

Injury-free and in a hurry to make up for lost time fulfilling her huge potential, teenager Ana Konjuh is off to the perfect start in her bid to reach a maiden Wimbledon main draw.

Her 6-0, 6-1 thumping of Spaniard Estrella Cabeza Candela, on the back of being sidelined for four months due to elbow surgery, served resounding notice this girl was the real deal.

A winner of both the Junior Australian and US Opens last year, the 16-year-old Croatian had the Spaniard struggling throughout, belting the pelt off the ball and peppering the turf with drop shots to take the opening 10 games of the match.

It became a case of trying to stem the flow of points, let alone games for Cabeza Candela. A huge smile as she finally held for 1-4 and you would have thought she had just won the match. Konjuh would break once more with a huge crosscourt forehand winner to put her 130th-ranked opponent out of her misery.

“Yeah I had a pretty good preparation on grass two weeks now so I feel really good coming back from injury,” Konjuh said. “I had a surgery and didn’t play for four months this year.”

In January she defeated top seed Roberta Vinci in the first round in Auckland before going on to win through three rounds of qualifying to reach the Australian Open main draw where she fell at the first hurdle to eventual champion, Chinese fourth seed Li Na. She managed just two games that day in Melbourne, but an underlying injury certainly contributed to the lop-sided scoreline. Immediately after, the Dubrovnik native underwent elbow surgery.

With her ranking hovering at 188th in the world, Konjuh is ready to make serious inroads, albeit playing a restricted schedule due to her age.

On her return to competition at an ITF event in France she reached the semi-finals, before falling in the second round of qualifying at Roland Garros.

The powerful Croatian is comfortable with the green turf under foot. She reached the Junior Wimbledon semi-finals last year and now stands two matches from a main draw debut.

“The grass suits my style. I feel like I’m leading the game, winning the game,” she said. “It’s just two tournaments for the year on grass. Not everyone feels comfortable on it and this girl was Spanish so she’s good on clay for sure, so she was a bit tight, but I played good today.”

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