Melbourne - Johanna Konta kept the British flag flying
on Thursday with a gritty win over fast-rising Japanese star Naomi Osaka to reach
the Australian Open third round.
The ninth seed, a semi-finalist last year, successfully
doused the threat from the promising 19-year-old 6-4, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena.
She will next play either former world number one Caroline
Wozniacki or Croat Donna Vekic. If she comes through that tough test, a
potential fourth-round clash with sixth seed Dominika Cibulkova awaits.
"I love playing on these amazing courts and I'm looking
forward to staying here as long as possible," she said, adding that Osaka
was one to watch.
"She is one of the up-and-coming players and had some
impressive results over the past 12 months so I knew coming into the match that
I had to be there for every point."
Coming off the back of winning the build-up Sydney
International, the Sydney-born Konta has been improving by the day as she looks
to hit the big time and win a maiden Grand Slam.
She was a surprise semi-finalist in Melbourne last year and
also made the fourth round of the US Open in a breakthrough season to push her
into the top 10 for the first time.
Her win on Thursday was her tenth of the year, to just one
But Osaka was no walkover, having proved her credentials by
making the third round of all three Grand Slams she entered in 2016 in her
Grand Slam debut year. She missed Wimbledon through injury.
She also made her first WTA final, at Tokyo where she lost
to Wozniacki, and was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year.
There was little between them in the opening games of the
match as they traded groundstrokes looking for an opening.
Konta had chances in the fifth game but blew two break point
But she made the most her next break point, slamming a
backhand down the line to go 5-4 in front.
Konta served out the set and quickly took charge in the
second, breaking for a 2-1 lead and never relinquishing the advantage as any
resistance from Osaka faded.
British players have been enjoying a successful Australian
Open, with five reaching the second round for the first time in 30 years.