Jo Konta broke her clay duck on Monday and, on Day 4 of the French Open, she found her way into the third round, expecting to meet the World No 4, KJo Konta broke her clay duck on Monday and, on Day 4 of the French Open, she found her way into the third round, expecting to meet the World No 4, Kiki Bertens, for the second time in a fortnight, but instead will play the young Slovak Viktoria Kuzmova for the first time.iki Bertens, for the second time in a fortnight, but instead will play the young Slovak Viktoria Kuzmova for the first time.
I think more than anything, I was just pleased with how I was able to handle the challenges Jo Konta
The Dutchwoman was 3-1 down in her second-round match against Kuzmova on Court Philippe-Chatrier when she opted to retire.
“I was sick before the match and am really aching,” the Dutch fourth seed told the tournament doctor.
“There’s nothing in my arms, nothing in my legs. I’m shaking like hell.”
The 27-year-old, one of the favourites for the tournament, called it quits, leaving Kuzmova, ranked 46, with a third-round clash against the British No 26 seed.
Konta’s opponent on Wednesday was wild card Lauren Davis, who beat Kristyna Pliskova to score her second ever match-win in Paris.
They had played three times before, with the American winning their only clay meeting 7 years ago, but they had not met since 2013.
Davis, heavily strapped above and below her left knee, gave Konta a stern challenge before the British No 1 won through, 6-3 1-6 6-3, in the Bullring, a perfect setting for such a tough struggle.
Konta eventually took charge of the very close opening set after 50 minutes, both players in turn facing and saving break points, Davis to make it 3-3, and Konta to stay firm at 4-3.
In the 8th game, Konta upped the attack, held the net for another break point, played a drop winner for a second, and finally got her breakthrough at her third attempt.
Davis dug in, coming back at her, and the small American has plenty of variety in her game to test and probe on both wings, but Konta saved a beak point and served it out, 6-3.
The wheels then fell off the Konta wagon as she collapsed in the second set before resetting in the decider, but again making rather hard work of it.
The errors flowed as her confidence drained, and Davis took full advantage, breaking twice to lead 5-0 before Konta held to avoid a bagel.
When Davis served out the set, 6-1, she seemed to have all the momentum, but Konta has talked of her growing self-assurance since she began working with her new coach at the end of last season.
“I think more than anything, I was just pleased with how I was able to handle the challenges,” she said after her first win in Paris.
“I mean, against her [Antonia Lottner], there wasn’t much rhythm in the match… I was just happy that I was able to really stay calm through that.
“And also when I found myself in tricky situations or points where the match could have swung either way, I thought I stayed quite calm. And I think just trusted myself enough to be able to handle whatever was going to come.”
That calm determination came to her rescue again with a break in the second game of the decider, followed by a hold to love, 3-0.
Konta broke again, held again, and served for the match at 5-1.
Davis saved 2 match points on her own serve to avoid her bagel, then broke back for 2-5 after 2 hours of an enthralling contest.
When Konta, serving for the match at 5-3, served a double-fault to hand the American 3 more break points, it seemed nerves would consume her, but a brave drop-shot got her back on track.
The American struck long at deuce and Konta blew a 3rd match point with a similarly hot reply, but steadied herself to smash away the 4th chance.
“I’m very pleased. There wasn’t so much that I did wrong,” she said. “I had a good run to get to 5-0, but I knew with Lauren it was never over until we shook hands.
“More than anything, I feel I handled it well. It was a very tricky match. I feel very grateful for how much support I had.”
Konta is in the same quarter of the draw as Garbiñe Muguruza, who has struggled lately, but is finding her groove and looked happy enough with a 6-4 6-1 win against Johanna Larsson.
She will have a tougher time of it against the 9th seed, Elina Svitolina, who went through to the third round when Kateryna Kozlova withdrew injured, and has won 6 of their 7 previous matches.
Still, the Spaniard, whose pedigree is undoubted is looking forward to the challenge.
“These are the type of matches that I want to play,” she said. “It could be any deep-round match, but it’s in the third round. Maybe it’s a bit too early, but too bad. It will be very interesting.
“In the women’s game, it’s tough. If you don’t play well you go home very fast. So, you’ve got to be competitive and, on top of that, play your A game all the time.”
As for Konta, this has already been a breakthrough tournament for her, having worked her way in the space of a month from World No 46 up to No 26 and earning herself a seeding at Roland Garros.
First she reached the final in Rabat, her first final on clay, then made the final in Rome, beating Sloane Stephens and Madrid champion Kiki Bertens on the way.
She had never previously passed the quarter-final stage on the red stuff, and until Rabat, had never won more than two consecutive main-draw matches on the surface since qualifying for Roland Garros in 2015.
That marked her first entry into the main draw in Paris, but every year since, she had fallen at the first hurdle, until this year.
With two wins under her belt so far and the draw opening up ahead of, Konta could well have a fine run in Paris.