Wimbledon 2019 – Johanna Konta happy to lead British challenge at SW19

Johanna Konta was happy to have royal support at Wimbledon – even if she did not realise it at the time.

SAFE PASSAGE: British No 1 Johanna Konta beat Ana Bogdan 7-5 6-2 in her first-round match at Wimbledon yesterday. Picture: Adam Davy/PA

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The British No 1 defeated Romanian qualifier Ana Bogdan 7-5 6-2 in a slightly scrappy match on Court One to move through to the second round for the fourth straight year.

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Konta, one of seven home players through to the next stage, met the Duchess of Cambridge at the practice courts before the match but was not aware that the tennis-loving royal was also in the stands.

“I didn’t actually see her watching me,” said Konta. “I was told she might come, but then I also know that their plans can change very quickly. I hope she enjoyed it because I enjoyed playing.

“It’s always exciting to have members of the Royal Family come to this event.

“I think it just adds to the air of the place, makes it that much more special, especially for everybody who knows that royalty is coming, more than anything.”

Konta is the best hope for home success in the singles after reaching the semi-finals of the French Open.

She has not yet shown the same form on grass, losing relatively early in Birmingham and Eastbourne, and did not have things all her own way against 132nd-ranked Bogdan.

It was attack against defence, with Konta hitting substantially more winners – 27 to nine in the match – but also more errors.

However, she took her chance when it came in the 12th game to win the opening set and then broke serve twice more in the second.

Konta saved both the break points she faced and was relieved to come through after admitting she did not play her best tennis.

“There was very little in that match,” she said. “I think first rounds are always tricky in any tournament, but especially slams.

“So I think it was just finding my feet and also for her a little bit, as well, I think we were just both trying to find the best level that we could.

“I was really pleased with how I served, how I just competed in general. Overall I’m just pleased to have come through.”

Konta led a standout day for the home nation, with seven British players now through to the second round in the two singles competitions.

“I think there’s every reason for us to be able to do that,” said Konta. “We’ve got such great players. That’s really a good position for us.”

In the second round, the 28-year-old will face Czech Katerina Siniakova, who knocked out then world number one Naomi Osaka at the French Open.

Harriet Dart also had the royal approval as the Duchess watched part of her first-ever Wimbledon win.

The 22-year-old beat Christina McHale in three sets and was aware she was in the presence of royalty.

Dart said: “I was aware (she was there). The chair umpire mentioned it before the coin toss. It’s pretty cool to have royalty watching you. Such a privilege for me for her to get to see me play.

“It’s pretty surreal. Hopefully she’ll come to many more of my matches.”

Dart actually turned the match around after the Duchess had headed off to other parts of the grounds, but did not feel her presence and the interest it generated had been a distraction.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “I don’t even know at which point she left. Obviously I was just aware she was there at the start.

“I think I dealt with all the conditions well. It was a bit windy out there today. Definitely towards the end, naturally I was a bit nervous to try and close it out. I think I did really well to hold myself together and get through.”

Dart, ranked 182, pushed Karolina Pliskova to three sets on her Wimbledon debut last year and had chances in the first set before being broken in the final game.

Holding serve proved tough for both women, particularly in the third set, but Dart broke a run of seven straight breaks to clinch victory and a second-round clash with either former champion Garbine Muguruza or Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Dart said of her victory: “It’s hard to kind of put it into words. I think it still hasn’t quite sunk in yet. It’s just feeling pretty amazing at the moment.”

Cameron Norrie was another first-time winner as he beat Denis Istomin in three sets, though unlike many he never grew up dreaming of winning at Wimbledon.

“I watched Wimbledon, but wasn’t the biggest tennis fan kind of growing up,” he said. “I watched a lot of other sports. I watched a lot of rugby growing up in New Zealand.

“I know Wimbledon is such a special tournament. I didn’t think I’d be winning matches at Wimbledon.

“So I’ll definitely take that. I’m happy.”

There were three casualties, however, as Paul Jubb, Katie Swan and James Ward went out.

Ward snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with a five-set 2-6 4-6 6-4 6-4 8-6 loss to Nikoloz Basilashvili and Swan had an off day losing 6-2 6-4 against Laura Siegemund.