By Ros Satar

  • Johanna Konta def. Johanna Larsson [Q] 6-1 6-2
  • Faces Roberta Vinci [7] H2H: First meeting
  • Heather Watson v Barbora Strycova – H2H: 1-1

ROME, ITALY – British No. 1 Johanna Konta regained her early season form as she sped past Johanna Larsson in Rome.

Britwatch Tennis: Full Draws and Schedules

After having to withdraw from her opening match in Madrid against Caroline Garcia, suffering from a respiratory illness, she came back in full force as she stormed past qualifier Larsson in just over an hour.

It had been a bit of a stuttering start for the Brit with a first round exit in Stuttgart, where the clay is slick in the indoor area, before the tricky altitude in Madrid.

Konta jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first set, only facing a break point from the Swede as she served out for the first set. Larsson rallied a little in the second, set getting a break back after Konta won the first three games and once more this time serving for the set, she faced another break point, but it was a solid finish.

She earns a match up against seventh seed Roberta Vinci who received a bye into the second round. This will be a first meeting for the Brit and the Italian veteran, who also struggled in Spain, losing in straight sets to Danka Kovinic.

Rome has not always been the happiest of hunting ground for the Italian. She has only gone as far as the third round in 2013. Konta enjoyed some success on the lower ITF tour last year and comes into this season with very few tour points to defend, so this is a great opportunity to take a good run on a surface that is closer to the conditions they will face in Paris.

Vinci has had a lot more time on the dirt this year than the Brit, and her clever use of slices could make this a fascinating bout. She will look to play the ball short to come into the net, so expect them to duel all around the court, as Konta looks to overpower the Italian and dash her hopes of success on home turf again.

Prediction: Konta in three sets.

 

Heather Watson v Barbora Strycova – H2H: 1-1

Watson has made a career of battling though some very tough matches, and this tournament has been no exception. She battled through the qualifying rounds, and had a three set tussle with Sara Errani to book her spot against Strycova.

Perhaps what should give her the most hope is that the last time they met, in the first round of Roland Garros in 2014, she sent the Czech packing in straight sets. However, Strycova has a little more time on the dirt this time around, with a run to the quarter-final in Prague, and a comfortable win over Italy’s Karin Knapp in the first round.

Watson has weapons – she plays natural defence, but has been working on having more aggression in her game and is going to need it – the Czech is a fierce attacker and hits flat with a lot of power. This might just be a step too far for the Brit – Strycova seems to be rounding into some steady form at the moment.

Prediction: Strycova in three sets.

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