Watson & Konta score first round wins in Hong Kong & Linz        

   By Ros Satar

  • Heather Watson battled from a set down to beat Zhang Kai-lin 3-6 6-1 6-2 in Hong Kong
  • Johanna Konta makes most of main draw place as a lucky loser to beat Annika Beck 6-1 6-3

Hong Kong & Linz – Britain’s top two female players Johanna Konta and Heather Watson both advanced in their respective tournaments with British No. 1 Konta getting a second bite at the main draw in Linz.

Tennis: Full Draws and Schedules

Konta had been edged out of the qualifying rounds earlier in the tournament by eighth seed Klara Koukalova in three sets 6-2 2-6 6-4 and was set to partner fellow Brit Naomi Broady in the doubles after Broady fell in the first round of qualifying.

It had been only her third defeat in an outstanding run of 26 matches since losing to Maria Sharapova in the first round of Wimbledon this year. Since then she ran to the fourth round of the US Open for the first time in her career, losing to Petra Kvitova, and beat World No. 2 Simona Halep in Wuhan before losing to a resurgent Venus Williams in the quarter-finals.

She benefitted from the withdrawal of Anna-Karolina Schmiedlova to a viral illness to take up a Lucky Loser spot, and wasted absolutely no time in stamping her authority over Germany’s Annika Beck. She broke the German three times in succession despite losing her own serve once as Beck initially struggled to convert on four break points in the second game of the match.

After sealing the set on her third attempt the second set started a little more competitively for the German, but it was short lived. Konta broke twice again in succession, and while she fought back with one of the breaks back, it was not enough to stop Konta taking advantage of her only match point.

She will face Madison Brengle in who despatched Misaki Doi with similar ease (6-0 6-3). Although Brengle holds a 2-0 advantage in their head to head, their past meetings have been at the lower ends of the WTA Tour, with Konta (of old) retiring in both. Since then, she has learned to stand fast on her own two feet after a lack of results saw the LTA pull her funding, and switching her base to Spain. Working with a Sports Psychologist has added a lot more to Konta’s game and it will be a very different fight out there than perhaps the US player came to expect in the past. Konta remains extremely grounded after what has been a real breakthrough year for her, and if she comes out with the same focus she could make things quite dicey for the American who is only five places above her in the rankings.

Meanwhile Watson was in the main draw but has also benefitted from the draw being shuffled quite considerable after the withdrawal of Beijing champion Garbiñe Muguruza. It was not a good start for the Guernsey-woman who was broken three times in the first set including the first and last games. However she regathered her nerve to dish out the same to Zhang Kai-Lin, ranked 130 places below her. Zhang put up a more spirited fight in the third set, pushing Watson hard with seven break points but could not find a gap in Watson’s defence, while Watson broke her twice, including the final game to set up a second round with qualifier Lee Ya-Hsuan. However it would serve her well not to make light of Lee’s rank of World 245. Lee comes in with a couple of solid wins already in the qualifying rounds and will feel match sharp.

Whilst on paper this should be an easy win, Watson is still looking for the kind of consistency that has taken Konta past her in the rankings.

Watson and Lee play on Court 1 in Hong Kong at 3pm (8am BST) and Konta faces Brengle on Centre Court, not before 3:30pm (2:30pm BST) in Linz. Follow the matches here.

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