Birmingham Premier: Johanna Konta into Round 2, but Heather Watson falls

Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty will contest No1 ranking during the tournament

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis
Jo Konta
Jo Konta (Photo: Getty Images for Nature Valley Classic)

British No1 and world No18, Johanna Konta, is through to the second round of the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham after beating world No20, Anett Kontaveit, 6-4, 6-2.

Konta said her win:

“I wouldn’t say like I’m fully adapted by any means. But I think that will come with time and come with matches, but it’s a step in the right direction.

“It was nice to get some court time on the grass because the girls that maybe have had more time maybe haven’t played as much on the grass because the weather hasn’t been too kind so to be able to play on the grass and play a match, I’m just really happy with that.”

Konta, who is fresh from reaching the semis of the French Open for the first time in her career, plays her next match on Wednesday against either former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko or Polish qualifier Iga Swiatek.

She was joined in the second round by world No3 Karolina Pliskova, who proved too strong for Mihaela Buznarescu, winning in just 69 minutes, 6-3, 6-4.

For the first time in the 38-year history of the Nature Valley Classic, the top three players in the world are in the draw, with the top two seeds Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty battling for the World No1 ranking. Osaka, who won last year’s US Open and this year’s Australian Open, currently holds the top spot, but needs a strong showing this week in Birmingham to hold off the challenge from Barty.

Both women take to the grass courts on Tuesday, with Osaka playing talented Greek Maria Sakkari before Barty takes on Donna Vekic. Vekic will present a significant challenge, having shown her grass court prowess with her run to last week’s Nature Valley Open in Nottingham.

Venus Williams also begins her singles campaign. The seven-time Major champion plays Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round on Tuesday.

Briton Heather Watson was beaten 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, despite putting up a determined challenge against the experienced Czech Barbora Strycova. She said:

“I thought I did a lot well today on the court. I thought particularly at the net. I won almost all the points where I came to the net. I mean, my chances were small, but she played very well and I am happy with my level. I’ve never really done well here in Birmingham in the past. I don’t know why, because I feel like I play well. But going into Eastbourne next week I feel very positive.”

Londoner Harriet Dart said she felt honoured to share the court with Williams, despite the pair losing their first-round doubles match to the accomplished pairing of Abigail Spears and Nadiia Kichenkok.

Dart admitted:

“I was a little bit nervous but it was such an amazing experience and something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. It’s great to learn from someone like her; she’s just an incredible champion.”

Tickets for the Nature Valley Classic: Centre court ticket prices start from just £12 for children under 16 and £30 for adults.

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