Fed Cup: Heather Watson and Johanna Konta notch wins for Britain

Pair achieve hard-fought victories over their Latvian opponents

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The Independent Online

Britain's Davis Cup players have set the bar high for their female counterparts, but Judy Murray's team got off to a winning start here in their quest for a Fed Cup World Group play-off place. Heather Watson and Johanna Konta achieved hard-fought victories over their Latvian opponents as Britain won their opening tie in Europe Africa Zone Group One.

Unlike the men, who are through to the Davis Cup World Group quarter-finals, Britain's women have some work to do to earn their place at the top table. They are attempting for the third year in a row to reach a play-off for a place in the World Group, their ambitions to rejoin the elite having been foiled by Sweden in 2012 and by Argentina last year.

To emulate their performances of the last two years they will need to upset the odds, having been drawn in a round-robin group that also includes Romania and Hungary. Romania have a particularly strong line-up, headed by Simona Halep, the world No 10, while the Hungarians have home advantage. The winners of the group go into what amounts to a final at the weekend.

Britain's chances have been hampered by the absence of Laura Robson, who has a wrist injury. Konta is Britain's No 1 singles player here and at least she has the advantage of being on familiar ground. The world No 118's parents emigrated from Hungary to Australia before settling in Britain.

Watson, who has fallen to No 162 in the world rankings after a year recovering from glandular fever, was the clear favourite to get Britain off to a winning start when she met 16-year-old Jelena Ostapenko, but the world No 705 proved a tough nut to crack.

Having fought back from 4-1 down in the first set, Ostapenko levelled at 5-5 and had a point for 6-5, but Watson held firm. The teenager's nerves seemed to get to her in the following game as Watson broke to take the set. The 21-year-old from Guernsey had a much easier time of it in the second set and closed out a 7-5, 6-1 victory.

"It was a very tough match," Watson said. 'She's a young, dangerous player. She's a top junior and got to the quarter-finals in the juniors at the Australian Open. She's a strong girl for only 16 years old."

Konta snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to beat Diana Marcinkevica 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. Marcinkevica, the world No 216, responded well to losing the first set. Going for her shots, the Latvian No 1 levelled the match and then went 5-2 up in the decider. Konta, however, kept her nerve, even when Marcinkevica had a match point at 5-4.

At 5-5 Konta made the decisive break with a fine forehand cross-court winner. In the following game an ace took her to match point, which she converted when Marcinkevica hit a forehand long.