Johanna Konta beat Heather Watson in straight sets as the British pair met for the first time on the WTA Tour at Indian Wells. Konta, the British No1 and 11th seed, moved into the third round with a 6-4, 6-4 win over the British No2.
“I think it’s definitely challenging to adapt to these conditions,” Konta told the WTA. “The air is a bit drier and the ball travels a bit quicker. When the wind picks up, that can also complicate things. But it’s a beautiful centre court to play on, so I hope to extend my stay here as long as possible.”
The only previous meeting between the Britons came four years ago in a second-tier event in Barnstaple, in which Watson retired injured after losing the first four games. This time it reached a proper conclusion and Konta, ranked 97 places above her opponent, made her quality tell despite some tough moments.
Watson won the first two games of the match and put together three in a row towards the end as Konta wobbled but there were too many mistakes of her own littered through the 94-minute match. Watson double-faulted on nine occasions and at times grew visibly frustrated at her lack of control. In all she was broken on five occasions, edged out of the first set then faced with a formidable 5-1 scoreline in the second.
The match appeared lost at that moment but Watson produced her best tennis of the day to take things deep, serving to love twice in a row and breaking in between. The momentum finally gave way at the crucial moment, though, and after a good rally at match point Watson failed to clear the net to settle matters in Konta’s favour.
Konta, who was forced to miss the previous tournament in Dubai, added: “It definitely wasn’t easy and it makes it extra challenging when you’re playing a member of your Fed Cup team.”
Elsewhere the Dubai champion, Elina Svitolina, survived a scare by coming from a set down to beat Wang Qiang 3-6, 6-3, 7-6. The victory extends the Ukrainian’s winning run, in which she has lifted the titles in Taiwan and Dubai and reached a career-high No10 in the world rankings – to 14 matches.