Watson starts title defence, but Konta falls

 

By Ros Satar

  • Heather Watson start title defence with a convincing 6-3 6-0 win over Teliana Pereira
  • Johanna Konta lost a tough two-setter to third seed Dominika Cibulkova
  • Watson to face fourth seed Monica Niculescu
Heather Watson def. Teliana Pereira 6-3 6-0

Watson started her title defence in convincing fashion, banging down seven aces on the way to a straight sets win.

Watson had to break straight back after being broken early at the start of the match, and had to work hard to save a staggering seven break points in the next game. Perhaps that broke Pereira’s spirit as she relinquished her next service game and from there Watson went on a rout.

She rounded out the first set in 50 minutes. It took her half that time to hit the locker rooms as she continued her run of games denying the Brazilian any other chance to get on the board.

Next up for the Guernsey girl is the fourth seed Monica Niculescu for their first meeting. The Romanian has her distinctive cutting forehand to contend with, but what has really stood out for Watson’s approach this year has been really going for the serving and more aggression to her game.

This is winnable but we expect it to be a fight and this could well be a tough three setter, which in the predicted heat of Sydney for Tuesday could be gruelling.

 

Dominika Cibulkova def. Johanna Konta 7-6(6) 7-5

British No. 1 Konta lost a real battle of an opening round against the third seed Cibulkova in a match that shifted momentum constantly.

From the outset the Slovakian looked pumped, swiftly jumping out to a 5-1 lead over the Brit despite her getting at least one break back. The tide turned as the pair could not hang on to their serves with four successive losses of service games as Konta slowly caught up.

It seemed as though she was beginning to fire up her game as she broke Cibulkova three times in row to level things up and force a tie-breaker.

There she was in the ascendency, with five set points but the Slovakian is nothing if not tenacious, as she grappled back the deficit, reeling off seven points in a row to take the first set.

Konta was not done yet by any means, but once more nether fancied holding on to their serve as once more four games on the bounce went to the receiver and again Konta had a chance for a set point, characteristically clawed back from Cibulkova.

Finally the Slovakian had the bit between her teeth again, breaking to serve out the set, taking it on her second match point.

It is not the ideal start for the British No. 1 who lost the first round in her season opener in Shenzhen, where she was the fifth seed.

Watson and Konta are teaming up in the doubles on Tuesday and Watson is likely to play Niculescu on Wednesday.

 

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