Having already come through qualifying unseeded, she beat the 59-ranked Hungarian, Timea Babos, 6-2, 7-5, with another display of power, aggression and full-blooded commitment that bodes well for her future success.
Indeed, in the first half hour—the time it took her to break her opponent three times and notch up 29 points to Babos’s 18—it looked at though Konta was the higher ranked woman, though she is presently just outside the top 200.
In the second, though, the Hungarian woman lifted her level to play Konta at her own game, driving her ground-strokes through the court with speed and depth. Come the fourth game, Babos broke at the first time of asking and then held her own serve for a 4-1 lead. When she broke Konta again in the sixth to make it 5-1, it looked as though she had control of the match: It looked set to go to a third.
But as she had done in qualifying, Konta refocused, upped her offensive tactics and came back at Babos with a vengeance, breaking her not once but three times. The most gutsy game, holding off 10 set points, came at 3-5, and it proved to be decisive as Konta converted one of the 11 break point chances she had in the set.
It was a testament to the fitness and endurance of the Briton, in baking heat and with three matches already in her legs, that she was able to take this match back by the scruff of the neck. She extended her run to six games, to take the set and match, 7-5.
The 21-year-old Konta was born in Sydney, Australia to Hungarian parents, but has been a UK resident for many years and, as soon as UK citizenship was formalised, she joined the British squad. It meant she was granted a wild card for Wimbledon this summer, her first and only Grand Slam match until today.
She next faces Olga Govortsova, who put out No29 seed, Tamira Paszek in straight sets. The tall woman from Belarus is ranked 67 but has been as high as 35. However in five previous US Open appearances she has never gone beyond the second round.
Beyond that, Konta’s mini-section is formidable indeed. The third round will hold either the unseeded two-time US champion, Venus Williams, who breezed through Bethanie Mattek-Sands in an hour, or Angelique Kerber.
Kerber, the German No6 seed, was the daunting and, it transpired, much too powerful opponent for Anne Keothavong.
It was on the same court, a year ago, that Kerber announced her arrival at the high table, reaching her first Grand Slam semi-final. She has since gone on to the quarterfinals at the French Open and the semis at Wimbledon.
As she said afterwards: “I was thinking about last year when I went onto Court 17 to practise this morning. I was around No100 this time last year and now I’m top 10, so a lot has changed for me since then.
“I’ve beaten almost all the great players this year, but I think I’ve proven that I’m a great player myself. I think for sure I have a chance to win the tournament this year.”
Based on her overpowering performance against Keothavong—the second of the four British women to face top-10 seeds in their opening matches—Kerber will certainly be up for her next battle against Williams.
For while the Briton stayed with her for five games, the sixth brought the first of two breaks in the opening set. Kerber created set point with what became the outstanding weapon in the second set, too, her hammer-blow of a double-fisted, left-handed backhand.
With a 6-2 set in the bag, Kerber reeled of another six straight games—10 on the bounce—as Keothavong found it impossible to contain the weight and depth of the shots coming at her. And even when the Briton did get into a rally, Kerber showed her growing versatility, playing the odd drop shot, retrieving at the net and creating some great angles, to stave off any semblance of attack. It was all done, 6-0, in 54 minutes.
Elsewhere in the Kerber quarter, the top seed, Agnieszka Radwanska, No2, showed her form, also in 54 minutes and for the loss of two games, against Nina Bratchikova. No30 Jelena Jankovic, No13 Dominika Cibulkova and No10 Sara Errani, all advanced to Round 2 as well.
However, the other quarter in this half of the draw has become depleted of seeds: No26 Monica Niculescu lost out to Ayumi Morita, Shua Peng lost to Elena Vesnina, and Francesca Schiavone lost to Sloane Stephens. But the biggest name to fall was Caroline Wozniacki, carrying a knee injury, who went down to Irina-Camelia Begu.
But the biggest name in the New York firmament and in this half, No4 seed Serena Williams, shone brightly under the night lights on Arthur Ashe. She looked in truly superb form beating the highly talented Coco Vandeweghe in 55 minutes, and regardless of how the rest have performed so far, make no mistake: Serena is on a mission—to win her fourth US Open singles title.
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