Australian Open (day four): Who can stop ruthless Brit in Melbourne?

Britain's Johanna Konta eyes on the ballBritain's Johanna Konta eyes on the ball
Britain's Johanna Konta eyes on the ball
Johanna KONTA underlined her status as a genuine contender for the Australian Open title by thrashing Japan's Naomi Osaka to reach the third round.

Osaka is widely considered a future star of the women’s game but the 19-year-old was handed a lesson in ruthless efficiency on Rod Laver Arena as Konta stormed to a 6-4 6-2 victory.

After a scrappy opening performance against Kirsten Flipkens on Tuesday, this was the British number one back to her best and in the sort of form that will have the draw’s biggest names taking notice.

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Konta will face either the resurgent Caroline Wozniacki, who made the US Open semi-finals in September, or Croatia’s Donna Vekic for a place in the last 16.

Osaka is one of the most destructive players on the women’s tour, possessing a thumping serve and heavy forehand that regularly drew gasps from a sparse crowd on Melbourne Park’s centre court.

Konta, however, could not only match her world number 48 opponent for pace but she showed a coolness under pressure that has defined her rise into the top 10 and which Osaka will only learn with greater experience.

“She is one of the up and coming players and she’s had some really impressive results over the last 12 months or so,” said Konta.

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“I played her once before, we had a tough battle and it was the same today. I knew I had to give it my best on every single point.”

Osaka set her stall out with a booming 191 km/hour serve in the opening game, 15 km/hour faster than anything Konta produced in her round one victory against Flipkens.

The Briton is no featherweight herself, however, and she opened up two break points at 2-2 but blew a chance for a passing shot then fired a return long as she tried to find her range.

A bitty contest, strewn with narrowly missing attempted winners, caught fire with Konta serving at 4-3, opening with one blistering exchange which Konta won, before the youngster cracked two superb backhand returns for 30-40 and a break point.

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Osaka, however, missed the forehand and Konta duly delivered two aces to hold.

Chances are few and far between against elite players and when squandered, often punished, and so it proved as a deflated Osaka chucked in three unforced errors to trail 0-40 in the very next game.

Konta ruthlessly drove a backhand winner to convert and served out the opening set.

The Briton smelt dejection in her opponent and continued the assault early in the second, two stinging forehands sealing a break for 2-1. Osaka could only look up to the sky in disbelief.

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The rest of the set proceeded with an air of inevitability as Konta refused to give her opponent any inkling of a comeback.

A match that had been largely a contest of power ended with a moment of precision as Konta plopped over a drop-shot, before reacting to the retrieval catching the net-chord and patting away the winner.

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