Konta sails on in Eastbourne

By Ros Satar

  • Johanna Konta delights local crowds as she books quarter-final berth
  • Heather Watson falls short against Sloane Stephens

EASTBOURNE, UK – Local hero Johanna Konta rode the crest of the crowd’s wave of support as she sailed into the quarter-finals of the Aegon International.

Konta got off to a rapid start against WTA Rising Star Garbine Muguruza in three sets, yet still tried to focus on a restful mind in key moments. She certainly needed one, having gotten off to a quick start against the Spaniard, but as her Top 20 opponent lifted her game, found herself battling out in a decider.

Another decent start in the third set saw her serving for the match at 5-1, but from somewhere Muguruza found depth and pace, pushing Konta to dig into her reserves after she was broken while serving for the match at 5-1.

She needed just the one match point on her second time around to clinch it, as the crowd were rapturous. Konta is one of the most measured people on the tour after matches, but her joy at the win, and the crowd’s reaction was clear to see, as she emerged victorious 6-4 4-6 6-3.

“It’s a pleasure, to be honest. I can’t describe it in any other way. My parents are watching in the crowd, and obviously it’s been a long journey. And for them I’m really happy that they get to experience something like that. So I’m just very happy that I’m so lucky to be in such a situation.”

She now faces Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic who has been consolidating a great junior career with some big wins on the tour this year. She had the measure of Genie Bouchard, who after a pretty competitive first set started to feel an abdominal strain, losing 12 straight points before retiring.

The pair have met twice last year and have split their wins, but perhaps crucially Konta got the win last year on the grass of Eastbourne.

“She won the first one and I won the second one here. I remember that match. She has improved a lot since then. Since then she’s made quarterfinals of US Open. Since then she’s been 30 in the world or so, I’m not entirely sure. But she’s there for a reason. I’m going out there with a very level head and going to see what my best can produce on the day.”

It was less good news for Heather Watson as she struggled to make an impression on Sloane Stephens. Watson got off to a slow start and although she had her chances in the second set, Stephens just seemed to have the edge, closing out a 6-2 6-3 win to advance.

Watson said: “I wasn’t happy with my performance today. I just felt that I never got going at all. I felt quite slow to the ball and slow reacting and just slow with my mind. But I still felt I had chances to get in the match. I had a lot of games, especially on my serve, where I was up and I had points to close the game and I just let it slip away.”

“Sloane was very solid. She played great. She didn’t allow me to get back in, and I felt from the first ball she was pushing me on the back foot.”

Watson will head up to London to prepare on the courts there, while Konta will be out once more to face the home crowd when she plays her quarter-final, not before 12:30pm BST.