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More success for the Brits

BRITAIN secured FIVE players in the second round of the Australian Open for the first time in 30 years when Jo Konta, Heather Watson and Kyle Edmund joined Andy Murray and Dan Evans in getting over the opening hurdle on Day Two in Melbourne.

A lot has happened in the last year and I'm just enjoying playing

BRITAIN secured FIVE players in the second round of the Australian Open for the first time in 30 years when Jo Konta, Heather Watson and Kyle Edmund joined Andy Murray and Dan Evans in getting over the opening hurdle on Day Two in Melbourne.

Konta, the British No.1, overcame Kirsten Flipkens 7-5 6-2 and Watson proved too strong for experienced home ace Sam Stosur, defeating the 2011 US Open champion 6-3 3-6 6-0.

Edmund made sure three out of the four Brits went through in the men’s draw Š—– with Aljaz Bedene the lone faller at the first Š—– by beating Santiago Giraldo 6-2 7-5 6-3 and Watson overcame Australia’s 18th seed Sam Stosur 6-3 3-6 6-0.

Konta had plenty to live up to as she took on Flipkens.

Her stunning run to the semi-finals last year upped the ante. No Brit had achieved it since Sue Barker in 1977. In fact, it had been 33 years since Jo Durie became the last to fly the Union flag in the last-four of the ladiesŠ—È singles of any Grand Slam.

She went on to crash the top ten to earn the WTA Tour title for the most improved player for 2016 and in the tournament before Melbourne had lifted the Sydney International crown.

Barker even tipped her as having the potential to win a Slam if she could get past superstar Serena Williams.

It seemed as if the level of expectation was weighing on her shoulders against world No.70 Flipkens, with her opponent making the better start.

And Konta wobbled when serving for the first set with Flipkens breaking her in a marathon game to level it.

But the 25-year-old based on EnglandŠ—Ès south coast had her Belgian rival at sea when breaking back immediately and serving out to take the lead.

It had taken 51-minutes but Konta had secured a firm grip which she refused to release, breaking Flipkens twice to seal her straight-sets success.

Konta, who next faces JapanŠ—Ès Naomi Osaka, conqueror of Luksika Kumkhum, said: Š—“It was incredibly tricky. She has the kind of game that can trouble any player.

"I tried to play myself in to the match and I’m happy to be through. A lot has happened in the last year and I’m just enjoying playing and trying to get better every day."

Watson punches the air as she secures her win

Image © Getty Images

Watson, the 2016 Wimbledon mixed doubles champion with Henri Kontinen, had had a wretched record in Melbourne in recent years. Two first-round losses in three campaigns were on her CV.

And it did not look good for her when broken by Stosur in the opening set.

Fortunately for the British No.2, her opponent proved erratic and let her back in and Watson sealed victory in 2hr.15min.

Watson, 24 and world-ranked 81, said: "There were some very long games and I had a slow start in both of the first two sets Š—– in the third I wanted to make her work.

"Sam’s a great player; she’s beaten me both times before. I felt I prepared really well and felt fit in that third set."

Edmund proved his fitness in disposing of Giraldo.

He suffered cramps when defeated by Damir Dzumhur in the opening round in 2016.

But the 22-year-old Brit was able to cope with 35-degree- centigrade temperatures against the world No.91.

Edmund, who completed his third training block in Miami with world No.1 Andy Murray in December, said: "Last year was a very different scenario, so it was nice to concentrate on my tennis and let my body take care of me.Š—

He takes on Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, seeded 30, who earned his spot when Canadian Peter Polansky was forced to quit in the fifth set.

Naomi Broady found there was no old palŠ—Ès act in Melbourne.

The Brit battled but lost 3-6 6-4 7-5 to home favourite Daria Gavrilova.

Gavrilova, who made the fourth round last year, said: ‘I’m really glad I ended up winning, it was a really tough match.

‘We’re good friends, we were chatting just before the match and I always knew we were going to have a big battle and that’s what happened.’

* Quotes from the BBC and PA.



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