Australian Open (day two): British duo go through but no joy for Broady

Britain's Heather Watson makes a backhand return to Australia's Samantha StosurBritain's Heather Watson makes a backhand return to Australia's Samantha Stosur
Britain's Heather Watson makes a backhand return to Australia's Samantha Stosur
BRITAIN'S Heather Watson and Johanna Konta both made it into the second round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Watson dug deep to see off home favourite Samantha Stosur 6-3 3-6 6-0 and Konta produced a scratchy performance in her opening match on Margaret Court Arena before overcoming Kirsten Flipkens 7-5 6-2.

Naomi Broady pushed local favourite Daria Gavrilova all the way but fell just short of inflicting another British upset.

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The 24-year-old Watson joined compatriot Konta in the second round after a contest lasting two hours and 15 minutes against the 18th seed.

Watson was broken in the first game of the match and again early in the second set but, after several gruelling games, eventually surged clear in the decider.

Her reward for beating a player 60 places higher in the world rankings is a second-round tie against either American Jennifer Brady or Belgian Maryna Zanevska.

Stosur, whose defeat extends her disappointing record in her home grand slam, broke Watson in the opening game but the world number 81 swiftly fought back to reel off five straight games.

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The Stosur forehand soon began to cave under pressure but it was a missed backhand which gave Watson a crucial second break at 4-2 as she took the opening set 6-3.

The second set also started badly for Watson, as former US Open champion Stosur broke when her opponent netted a routine forehand.

Down 3-1, Watson unsuccessfully challenged a backhand down the line at deuce as she tried to engineer a break back and wasted three break points in a marathon seventh game of the set before Stosur went 5-2 ahead with an ace as she went on to square the contest.

With the backing of the home crowd, Stosur might have expected to carry that momentum into the third set but failed to take advantage of a break point in the first game and found herself 2-0 when Watson produced a sensational forehand down the line at 15-40.

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Stosur led 30-0 in the fourth game but suffered another sudden loss of confidence and some tentative play eventually gave Watson a 4-0 lead, with the Brit racing through the next two games to progress.

“I’m very pleased with today,” Watson said on court. “Sam’s a great player, I’ve played her a couple of times before and she’s beaten me both times.

“I played really well today. There were some very long games; I had a slow start in both the first two sets so I wanted to get off to a good start in the third and make her work for everything, and I think I did.”

Konta could not deliver the same brilliance that won her the title in Sydney last week but still proved too strong for Flipkens, under-ranked at 70th in the world.

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The ninth seed will now face either Thai wildcard Luksika Kumkhum or Japan’s talented teenager Naomi Osaka in round two.

Konta’s breathtaking wins against Eugenie Bouchard and Agnieszka Radwanska at the Sydney International last week have many tipping her as a contender for the title here but this was not a vintage display from the 25-year-old, who can certainly play much better.

Flipkens played her part, a crafty and, at 31, experienced opponent but it was more Konta’s 22 unforced errors, 12 from her usually reliable backhand side, that made the contest closer than it could have been.

“It was incredibly tricky,” Konta said on court afterwards.

“She has the kind of game that can make any player feel really uncomfortable out there, the way she’s able to use her slice and just her general creativity. She’s incredibly good at that.

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“So I knew going into the match that I was going to have to stay patient and really just try to play myself into the match, as I’m sure we both were. I’m happy to have come through it.”

Konta will have been pleased to finish in an hour and 36 minutes and, with an 11am start local time, before the peak heat set in, with temperatures expected to rise to 36 degrees Celsius in Melbourne.

She looked nervous, however, walking out on court and committed eight unforced errors in the opening three games alone.

It was not until a bee, floating around her skirt, interrupted her service that the Briton broke into a smile and appeared to relax. She instantly delivered a booming ace.

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At 2-2, Konta found her groove, winning three of the next four games to lead 5-3, thanks to a break sealed with a driving backhand that was too hot for Flipkens to handle.

Serving for the set at 5-4, however, Konta wavered again as two loose backhands and then a double fault offered Flipkens her first of four break points, during a tense 10-minute game in which both players squandered chances.

Konta had two set points but failed to convert and instead it was Flipkens that levelled at 5-5 when a wayward backhand volley flew out.

At one stage in her career, Konta might have crumbled but now she is made of sterner stuff, proved again when she had to replay a break point she clearly would have won, as a wrong call out was corrected.

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It made no difference. Konta broke for 6-5 and served out the first set to love.

The second frame was more straightforward for the Briton, who broke decisively at 2-2 with another trademark backhand winner. When the same shot flew past Flipkens a game later, the Belgian could only clap her racket in resignation.

One unusual moment soon after saw a Flipkens lob land down on her opponents’ foot, Konta misjudging the flight of a ball she thought was dropping out. The next point she fired off a backhand down the line and broke again for 5-2.

It summed up a topsy-turvy match for Konta, who will certainly have to play better if she is to challenge for the title. For now, however, it was a case of job done.

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Despite a courageous effort, Broady was unable to follow suit as world No 26 Gavrilova triumphed 3-6 6-4 7-5.

Broady’s defeat means Britain boast five players in the second round of the singles events in Melbourne for the first time since six made it through in 1987.

Gavrilova, meanwhile, who made the fourth round 12 months ago and is a hugely popular character here, goes through to meet Croatia’s 19-year-old Ana Konjuh.

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