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Ending my French jinx no big deal, says Konta

 

Striding on: Johanna Konta during her first ever win at the French Open
Striding on: Johanna Konta during her first ever win at the French Open

By Eleanor Crooks

Johanna Konta insisted she took no special pleasure in ending her French Open hoodoo by beating Antonia Lottner to reach the second round for the first time in five attempts.

Konta has had a breakthrough clay-court season this year, winning more tour-level matches than in the rest of her career combined, capped by an unexpected run to the final of the Italian Open in Rome last weekend.

That was enough to lift her back among the 32 seeds in Paris and she took advantage of a kind draw by seeing off German qualifier Lottner 6-4 6-4 in an hour and 19 minutes.

"I think it was a bigger deal to you guys than it was to me," she said of her record here. "But I'm pleased to have come through that match. It's nice to have won a main-draw match here, but I didn't really look at it too much.

"I think I was just, more than anything, happy to have dealt with the challenges of today. And she was a tricky player to play."

Lottner, ranked 147th, was a significant step down from the players Konta beat in Rome, including Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and Kiki Bertens.

But getting over the line at a tournament that does not hold happy memories was never likely to be entirely straightforward.

The British No.1 failed to serve out the opening set at 5-3, and Lottner had two chances to level at 5-5, but Konta was determined not to get dragged into a battle and reeled off four points in a row to secure yet another break.

The second set was a much tighter affair, with both players holding serve relatively comfortably until Konta found herself facing three break points at 4-4.

The prospect of a deciding set loomed but Konta's well of confidence is deep right now and she produced more decisive play to stave off the threat.

She got her reward when Lottner coughed up two match points in the next game, and Konta showed no hesitation in taking the first to stride through to a very winnable second-round clash with American Lauren Davis tomorrow.

"There wasn't much rhythm in the match," she said. "I think that presents its own type of rhythm and own type of challenge. I was happy that I was able to really stay calm through that.

"And when I found myself in tricky situations, or break points down or points where the match could have swung either way, I thought I stayed quite calm. And I think I just trusted myself enough to be able to handle whatever was going to come."

Konta will be favoured to win her next match, too, against the diminutive Davis, ranked 111th, which would probably set up a third-round clash with fourth seed Bertens.

Konta and Davis have played three times before, but never at tour level and not since 2013, when Konta won in three tight sets.

"She's a very good competitor, very good mover, very good opponent to have," said the 28-year-old.

Meanwhile, Serena Williams recovered from a stuttering start to beat Vitalia Diatchenko and book her place in the second round.

An upset looked on the cards when Russian Diatchenko, ranked 83rd, took the first set, but Williams lost just one game thereafter in a 2-6 6-1 6-0 victory.

Williams arrived in Paris having played just four tournaments this year, withdrawing from all of them except the Australian Open, where she lost from 5-1 up in the deciding set of her quarter-final against Karolina Pliskova.

Caroline Wozniacki completed a hat-trick of first-round exits on red clay this season as she became the third former World No.1 to fall in round one.

The 13th-seeded Dane suffered a spectacular collapse in a 0-6 6-3 6-3 defeat to Russia's Veronika Kudermetova on Court Philippe Chatrier yesterday, just 24 hours after Angelique Kerber and Venus Williams were also sent packing.

Wozniacki has failed to win a match on red clay this year as she was forced to retire with back and calf injuries midway through her opening round contests in Madrid and Rome.

Wozniacki, who had reached the Charleston final on green clay before she suffered the injury setbacks, paid for her lack of match practice.

"I played really well in the first set. I played the way I wanted. And then I think she got very lucky in the start of the second set and took advantage of the opportunities she got," said Wozniacki.

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