Johanna Konta overcame illness and a late wobble 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 but three match points slipped away and from there things got decidedly hairy.
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, who seemed to be hitting the lines at will, 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 and clenched her fists in celebration.
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. I think when I’m presented with tough situations out there, I keep a cool head. And I’m managing to problem-solve well, which makes me difficult to play.”
Informed that she had matched Durie, Konta, who had lost all four of her main-draw matches in Paris prior to this year, said: “I didn’t know before now, but that’s nice. I never doubted my ability on the surface, so it’s nice to have some reward for that.”
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.
Konta would probably have expected to find Kiki Bertens waiting but the fourth seed retired in tears through illness after only four games.
Konta has never faced Kuzmova in a match before but said: “I might have practised with her last year here, I think if it’s the girl that I’m thinking of. She’s a big hitter. She plays big balls from what I’ve seen.”
The 26th seed will see how she feels before deciding whether to practise on Thursday.News Now - Sport News