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Konta keen to play down her new role as favourite

 

By Tom Allnutt

Johanna Konta shrugged off her tag as favourite to win Wimbledon despite cruising past Maria Sakkari and into the last 16.

Konta has become the bookies' pick after Petra Kvitova, the initial favourite, and then her successor Karolina Pliskova both endured surprise defeats.

There was never any sign Konta would extend the exodus, however, as she barely broke sweat on Court One in a 6-4 6-1 win.

France's 21st seed Caroline Garcia now awaits in the fourth round and while the women's draw is unreadable, plenty of contenders remain.

Seven-time Major champion Venus Williams edged out the talented Naomi Osaka later yesterday after Victoria Azarenka had overcome Heather Watson and a raucous British crowd on Centre Court.

World No.1 Angelique Kerber and Spain's Garbine Muguruza, who both play third rounds today, are also gaining momentum.

"Everyone in the draw is in with a chance of taking the title - favourites also come and go," Konta said. "They change daily almost. I'm just here, happy to have actually made it into the second week, happy to come through three battles this week.

"Again, I'm taking it one match at a time but I'm definitely working towards staying involved for a full two weeks."

Konta was not at her free-flowing best against Sakkari, the Greek World No.101, but it is a mark of her status that she progressed with minimal fuss.

After keeping her unforced errors down to 21 in 41 games against Donna Vekic in the previous round, the British No.1 hit 15 in 17 games against Sakkari.

Her forehand, which delivered more than half of those, was particularly culpable.

"I'm playing some good tennis. I don't think I'm playing unbelievable tennis," Konta said. "I definitely believe in myself, the fact that I can keep improving. I can keep getting better."

She will have less room for error against Garcia, who is enjoying the best season of her career after making the French Open quarter-finals in May.

The World No.21 knows what it takes to beat Konta too, having won their last meeting 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-1) on the hard courts of Indian Wells in March.

"She's a very good player. She's someone who is playing with a lot of confidence," Konta said. "It's going to be a very tough match. We played in Indian Wells. I lost to her 7-6 in the third there so it was very close.

"I don't anticipate anything different, other than a really, really tough battle for me."

Five-time Wimbledon champion Williams battled through with victory over Osaka.

The 37-year-old, who won her first SW19 crown in 2000, overcame her powerful teenage opponent 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 on Court One.

Williams slipped on the baseline early on - a worry with the condition of the Wimbledon courts under scrutiny - but got straight back up and promptly secured the first break to lead 3-1.

Osaka hit back, though, her booming forehands at times proving troublesome.

Williams overpowered the youngster in the tie-break, though, coming from 3-0 down with seven unanswered points.

She then secured a break chasing a lost cause on the baseline that a player half her age would have struggled to reach, forcing the error from Osaka.

Osaka won her service game to stay in it but Williams finished the job with an ace to stay in the running for a sixth title.

Belfast Telegraph

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