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Illness can't prevent Konta bridging 27-year gap

Rude health: Johanna Konta got the better of Lauren Davis at Roland Garros
Rude health: Johanna Konta got the better of Lauren Davis at Roland Garros

By Eleanor Crooks

Johanna Konta overcame illness to become the first British woman in 27 years to reach the third round of the French Open.

Such has been the paucity of British success in the women's draw at Roland Garros in recent years that Konta's 6-3 1-6 6-3 victory over American Lauren Davis made her the best since Jo Durie in 1992.

The British number one, who coughed and blew her nose throughout, looked to be easing through at 5-0 in the deciding set before three match points slipped away.

She found herself at 5-3 and 0-40 as Davis threatened to get back on serve but Konta showed tremendous grit to win five points in a row.

Konta sounded hoarse and said of her sniffles: "I've been a bit sick since Sunday. It's moving, we're managing and dealing with it. I'm doing everything I can do to recover."

Davis, who is ranked 111, stands nine inches shorter than Konta at 5ft 2in but packs a punch with her ground strokes and there was little to choose between the pair in a tight first set that was settled by one break of serve in the eighth game.

A dip from Konta coupled with a hot streak from Davis made for a brief second set but Konta regrouped at the start of the decider and a long game on the Davis serve in which she broke for 2-0 looked to have been the key moment.

But Davis took heart from saving the match points and made Konta sweat before she finally put away the clinching volley.

Konta said: "In the third set, I felt I raised my level again. Actually ran away with it a little bit. But I knew up until the very end that, until I was shaking hands with her, it was not going to be over. She played really well when she was down.

"I was just trusting in the things that I was doing, and it was going happen or it wasn't, but I was enjoying actually being in such a tough situation. I'm definitely playing good tennis right now. I think I'm competing well."

Not since Durie reached the semi-finals in 1983 has any British woman gone further here, and if Konta is to do that she will have to get past 21-year-old Slovakian Viktoria Kuzmova.

American seventh seed Sloane Stephens, runner-up in 2018, eased through with a 6-1 7-6(3) win over Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain. Earlier this month, the 26-year-old, who claimed her first Grand Slam title at the 2017 US Open, announced that Sven Groeneveld was joining her coaching team.

The Dutchman, who notably coached Mary Pierce, Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova, was picked after a patient search process by Stephens, who explained: "I waited as long as possible until I found the right person.

"Not that I didn't care about the results when I didn't have a coach, but when I pick someone the commitment is going to be there and I'm going to have to really push myself.

"So I wanted to be sure I made a good decision from the very beginning."

Kristina Mladenovic was dumped out in the second round with a 6-2 6-1 defeat to Petra Martic, leaving Caroline Garcia as the only French woman who can reach the third round.

Belfast Telegraph


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