By Ros Satar
- Johanna Konta def. Madison Brengle 6-4 6-0
- First win over the American in four attempts
- Heather Watson’s winning streak ends in round two
INDIAN WELLS, USA – As Heather Watson’s six-match winning streak came to an end, Johanna Konta got her Indian Wells campaign started with a solid win over Madison Brengle.
Watson, who played her second round match on Friday, fought a tough battle with Monica Niculescu, but could not quite turn the tide her way this time, as the Romanian edged her 6-4 2-6 6-2.
Konta, seeded with a bye into the second round started her campaign trailing the American 0-3 in their previous meetings, but a lot has changed since their earlier encounters on the 25K level tournaments, with their most recent meeting at Linz, after Konta’s run at the US Open.
Konta struck first with a break before the first sit-down, but Brengle is nothing if not tenacious, breaking back, forcing the Brit to strike straight back again to regain the advantage.
From there the momentum stayed firmly with the Brit, serving out the set to love, and breaking Brengle with a single break point in each of her service games each time.
While it looked a comfortable start, Konta was quick to dispel any ideas that it had been a rout.
She said: “According to the score-line it looked more comfortable than it actually was. Every single point that you’ll ever play against Madison is a battle. She does an incredible job at really making her opponents work for it and exploit their weaknesses out there and I’m really happy with that win.
“I’d lost to her a number of times before. Also the conditions here are definitely tricky so I’m very happy all in all with how I was able to deal with everything.”
Konta, who of course impressed on her way to the Australian Open semi-final at the start of the year, has largely kept her feet firmly on the ground, although she did admit to being somewhat awestruck when meeting boxer Ricky Hatton on the Clare Balding show, as well as having appeared on the Jonathan Ross show.
She bubbled away: “Clare Balding was definitely more of a sport orientated show and that’s more in my comfort zone you could say, Jonathan Ross was definitely very different. Probably one of the best experiences I’ve had. Two things that I think are definitely very cool.”
She has come a long way from the grounded and guarded approach we saw to her winning run in her home town of Eastbourne last summer – perhaps the catalyst for her pivotal runs in New York and then ably backed up in Melbourne.
Happily greeting the press by joking we’d been downgraded to the smaller interview room, she continues to push the message home that she takes it all one match at a time, and even dispenses the now commonplace questions regarding Maria Sharapova’s recent announcement sensibly, before admitting that she’s ‘very much in the vitamin c/multi-vitamin pool,’ where all that is concerned.
She was set to face Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber in the third round, but the German has struggled to find her form since her stunning win over Serena Williams in the final, and instead Konta will face Denisa Allertova, who she beat handily in the third round of the Australian Open, to level their head to head.
She said: “I think I played an incredibly good match against her in Paris, I think we had a very very competitive match in general and I was very happy with my performance when I came off even though I lost and the same thing can be said in Australia when I played her and the difference was that I just came off and I won.”
The Czech baseliner says her favourite surface is clay, but she managed to outrun and outlast Kerber in a tight two-setter and with Konta now perhaps in the role of the hunted as opposed to a hunter this time, she can expect this to be a tight match.
While Watson fell short of defending her fourth round points from last year, Konta had previously never made it out of the qualifying rounds, and now finds herself a seeded survivor after nine seeds were culled from the top half of the draw with second seed Kerber and fourth seed Garbiñe Muguruza joining the list of casualties before the end of round two.
With the withdrawal of Carla Suárez Navarro due to an injury, the bottom quarter seems to be opening up quite nicely now for potentially another good run for Konta.
Konta and Allertova will play their third round match on Monday.