Wimbledon 2017: Favourites come and go, says bookies’ choice Konta

Johanna Konta in action against Maria Sakkari.
Johanna Konta in action against Maria Sakkari.
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Johanna Konta shrugged off her tag as favourite to win Wimbledon despite cruising past Maria Sakkari and into the last 16.

Konta has become the bookies’ pick after Petra Kvitova, the initial favourite, and then her successor Karolina Pliskova both endured surprise defeats.

There was never any sign Konta would extend the exodus, however, as she barely broke sweat on Court One in a 6-4 6-1 win over Sakkari.

France’s 21st seed Caroline Garcia now awaits in the fourth round and while the women’s draw is unreadable heading into the second week, plenty of contenders remain.

Seven-time major champion Venus Williams edged out the talented Naomi Osaka later on Friday after Victoria Azarenka had overcome Heather Watson and a raucous British crowd on Centre Court.

World No 1 Angelique Kerber and Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, who both play third rounds on Saturday, are also gaining momentum.

“Everyone in the draw is in with a chance of taking the title – I think I’m pretty sure favourites also come and go,” Konta said.

“They change daily almost. I’m just here, happy to have actually made it into the second week, happy to come through three battles this week.

“Again, I’m very much taking it one match at a time but I’m definitely working towards staying involved for a full two weeks.”

Konta was not at her free-flowing best against Sakkari, the Greek world No 101, but it is a mark of her status that she progressed with minimal fuss.

After keeping her unforced errors down to 21 in 41 games against Donna Vekic in the previous round, the British No 1 hit 15 in 17 games against Sakkari.

Her forehand, which delivered more than half of those, was particularly culpable.

“I think I’m playing some good tennis. I don’t think I’m playing unbelievable tennis,” Konta said.

“I definitely believe in myself, the fact that I can keep improving. I can keep getting better yes.”

She will have less room for error against Garcia, who is enjoying the best season of her career after making the French Open quarter-finals in May.

The world No 21 knows what it takes to beat Konta too, having won their last meeting 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7/1) on the hard courts of Indian Wells in March.

“She’s a very good player. She’s someone who is playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Konta said.

“I think it’s going to be a very tough match. We played in Indian Wells. I lost to her 7-6 in the third there so it was a very close match. I don’t anticipate anything different, other than a really, really tough battle for me.”

Garcia was a 6-4 6-3 winner over America’s Madison Brengle, the conqueror of two-time winner Petra Kvitova in the previous round.

French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko came through 7-5 7-5 against Italian Camila Giorgi.

Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, seeded four, also won in straight sets, 6-1 7-5 against Carina Witthoeft of Germany.

Second seed Simona Halep of Romania was made to work hard by Shuai Peng of China before securing a 6-4 7-6 (9/7) victory.