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Konta defeats Vekic in thriller

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Originally published on 05/07/17 00:00

It was a high quality contest played in searing heat however it was Konta who held her nerve and toppled her youthful opponent in an energy-sapping decider. The British No.1 will play Maria Sakkari for a spot in the fourth round on Friday.

“We were both out there for a long time and both battled incredibly hard,” said a weary-looking Konta after her win. “Whoever got the short-straw today was going to be hurting and I obviously feel very fortunate to come through that.

“The quality of the match was very high and she served incredibly well, so it was difficult for me to return well. I’m looking to compete at my best every single match I get to play. I’ve given myself another opportunity to come back here at Wimbledon and play another round and I will give my all in that.”

Konta and Vekic met in the final of the Nottingham Open last month and it was fiercely-contested. It was the Croatian who emerged victorious in the East Midlands and she made an excellent start on Centre Court.

The 21-year-old served for the opener but she squandered two set-points and was soon embroiled in a tense tiebreak. The breaker ebbed and flowed but it was eventually pocket by the Brit by seven points to four.

After an intense first set battle, Konta’s level dipped at the start of the next and her opponent took full advantage. Vekic showed her mettle and her trusty serve ensured a third set was necessary.

Both players rattled through service holds in the decider. Chances to secure a breakthrough were at a premium however Konta made her move in the eighteenth game. A loose forehand from Vekic proved to be decisive and the Centre Court crowd showed their appreciation to both competitors as they embraced at the net.

Victoria Azarenka’s comeback gathered pace as she defeated Elena Vesnina 6-3 6-3 to reach the third round of Wimbledon.

The former world No.1 may be unseeded but she is in excellent form and a legitimate contender for the Venus Rosewater Dish. All of aspects of the Belarusian’s game were in full working order and she was flawless behind her serve.

Azarenka, who cracked 26 winners on her way to victory, has now won all eight meetings with Vesnina however she had to play well to overcome the Russian on this occasion. A trademark backhand gave the former Australian Open champion the only break in the opener and she improved further in the second set.

The 27-year-old was understandably thrilled to reach the third round for an eighth time. "I think I played really clean from the baseline today," said Azarenka.. "I could have played a little better on the return, but she also served really well. Overall, I felt like I played really good on the important moments, which gave me opportunities to win comfortably today." 

Azarenka will play Heather Watson in the round of 32. The Brit upset No.18 seed, Anastasija Sevastova, 6-0 6-4 to continue her fine grass-court season.

Watson was outstanding in the first set and did not make a single unforced-error. Sevastova had no answer to the Brit’s intensity and won just eight points in a 19 minute opener.

The second set was more competitive and there were frequent breaks of serve however the Latvian faltered when serving to stay in the match. It’s the second time in three years that the Brit has reached the third round at the All England Club.

“I felt very good at the beginning the match,” Watson said after her emphatic victory. “I was relaxed today, more relaxed than I was in my first match, and I know how she [Sevastova] plays. She is a great player and I was expecting her to play her best, so I was prepared for that.

“She started to step up in the second set, like I knew she would, but I was able to keep my cool and just stick with her. I feel like I’m seeing the ball very big and I’m moving well, which is very important on grass.”

No.2 seed, Simona Halep, recovered from a disappointing start to defeat talented Brazillian, Beatriz Haddad Maia, 7-5 6-3.

After the match, the Romanian said: “I’m really pleased with the victory today. She was hitting the ball very strong and it was not easy to return, but I stayed focused and tried to push her back as much as I could.

“Every match is difficult here on grass, you never know what is going to happen on court. It’s always nice to have tough matches at the beginning, but not too tough.”

Petra Kvitova’s Wimbledon campaign has come to an end. Madison Brengle defeated the Czech 6-3 1-6 6-2 to reach the third round at the All England Club for the first time.  

Kvitova struggled with her fitness in the latter stages and she hit an eye-watering 50 unforced-errors as she exited the tournament.

Elina Svitolina is also through to the third round for the first time. The No.4 seed thrashed Francesca Schiavone 6-3 6-0 in just 50 minutes and she appeared untroubled by the foot issue that concerned her in Birmingham.

Venus Williams was a winner on Court 1. The five-time champion was pushed by qualifier, Qiang Wang, but she eventually claimed a 4-6 6-4 6-1 victory.

Elsewhere on the gorunds, No.8 seed, Dominika Cibulkova, advanced to the third round after a 6-4 6-4 success over Jennifer Brady. The Slovakian will play Ana Konjuh next, who defeated Irina Camelia Begu 7-6(3) 2-6 6-3.

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