By Ros Satar
- Bookends of success as Jo Konta gets her first Top 10 win over Ekaterina Makarova and Heather Watson battles past Elina Svitolina
- Konta faces Garbine Muguruza and Watson has a third date with Sloane Stephens this year.
EASTBOURNE, UK – Johanna Konta and Heather Watson book-ended a fine day of tennis for Britain in Eastbourne with a brace of Top 20 wins.
Konta got off to a swift start over the World No. 8 and fourth seed here as she built up a 4-2 lead, breaking once more before serving out the first set with remarkable composure.
She started in much the same way, breaking the Russian immediately at the start of the second set but Makarova got herself back into the match far more swiftly this time.
The pair traded breaks but it was Konta that just edged the one that mattered, taking just the one match point to bag her first Top 10 win, her fifth Top 100 scalp, and yet continued to try and keep things in perspective, rather than get swept away with the gentile excitement.
She said, after the match: “To be honest, it felt amazing because of the atmosphere on court. Obviously the higher profile match you play, the more people generally do watch and you get maybe put on more different courts, obviously.
“In terms of how satisfied I feel about the win, for me it’s important for me not to treat it differently, because, you know, I do believe very much so that I do need to approach every match exactly the same with my same intentions and personal goals. I’m just happy that I was able to do that today.”
She faces Garbine Muguruza in the third round, and although the Spaniard has the one solitary win over her, that was three years ago in qualifying (Luxembourg). Muguruza had a real fight on her hands having to come from a set behind against Polona Hercog. She first took to the grass this season in Birmingham, losing in straight sets to Magdalena Rybarikova. Konta has had a lot of play on grass already this season, and so should hope to make the adjustment a little quicker.
She certainly enjoyed feeding off the energy of the crowd and can expect the same on Wednesday.
Watson closed out the day’s play on Centre Court, and also had a fight on her hands, being edged out of the first set by Elina Svitolina, but mounting an impressive comeback in the second set. Coasting on that momentum, she struck out for a 4-2 lead, but Svitolina broke her back, only to have to halt the proceedings for the trainer to treat a pretty battered foot and what looked like some nasty blisters. The crowd lifted the Brit to great heights, and brought her to tears after she broke the Ukrainian to seal the match for a 3-6 7-5 6-4 win. As she praised the crowd for her on court win the tears took over, and afterwards in her post-match press conference she explained why.
She said: “I haven’t really had the best time in the clay court season and have been finding a few things tough. So this week was kind of like a new start for me and I just really, I don’t know, I’ve got a lot of emotion in me right now. I think on the court it shows. I’m kind of getting mad at myself sometimes, but I’m also very positive when I win the point.
“I think also the crowd today was louder than I think I have ever heard them here at Eastbourne for one of my matches. I just loved every minute of it.”
She faces Sloane Stephens for the third time this year, with them splitting their wins. But Stephens is having a bit of a resurgence of her own at the moment, and actually scored her first win over Watson in their most recent match at Roland Garros. After Watson had advanced to the second round once more, she looked inhibited by an elbow injury that eventually also forced her out of Nottingham and saw her only pick up two matches in total in Birmingham.
Watson said: “I feel fully fit. And especially after today, playing with that tennis, I feel really good going into tomorrow. It was a long match. I will have to recover and make sure I get a good night’s sleep, eat well, and make sure I’m fully prepared for tomorrow.”
She will maybe need to return to the aggressive style of play she has perhaps tempered a little these past two games in recognition that she has perhaps been over-committing errors and needed to be more patient. Stephens hits solidly and moves very well, and has a lot of her confidence back.
Konta and Muguruza are scheduled second on Centre Court, not before 12:30pm BST with Watson and Stephens fourth, not expected before 3:30pm BST.