Konta takes giant stride with unexpected victory


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The Independent Online

They were born in Australia, but both Johanna Konta and Laura Robson have made their homes in Britain. Thankfully for British tennis, however, the 21-year-old and the 18-year-old have kept a winning mentality more associated with the country of their birth.

Robson, who was born in Melbourne, and Konta, who spent the first 14 years of her life in Sydney, are both through to the second round of the US Open. Robson earned a meeting here today with Kim Clijsters by beating Samantha Crawford, a 17-year-old American, 6-3, 7-6, while Konta secured her place in the second round last night with an even more impressive victory, beating Hungary’s Timea Babos 6-2, 7-5.

Konta, who has lived in Eastbourne for the last seven years and was awarded British citizenship in May, arrived here last week having never even attempted to qualify for a Grand Slam tournament. The world No 203 reached the main draw by beating three higher-ranked opponents and topped those performances with her victory over Babos, the world No 59.

It was Konta’s first victory at a Grand Slam tournament. In her only previous appearance at this level, when she was given a wild card at Wimbledon two months ago, she lost in the first round to Christina McHale, the world No 32, going down 10-8 in the final set.

An aggressive baseliner and a fine athlete, Konta made a flying start against 19-year-old Babos, a big-hitter who struck a 120mph serve - the fifth fastest of the year - in New Haven last week.

Having won the first three games, Konta took the opening set in 32 minutes, but the second was much closer. Babos went 5-1 up only for Konta to claw her way back and save a remarkable 10 set points in the ninth game. She will now play the world No 67, Olga Govortsova, of Belarus.

Konta, who has Hungarian parents, was asked afterwards whether she felt British. "I guess I don't know what it is to feel very British," she said. "But I feel that it's home. So I'm very happy to represent Great Britain."

She added with a smile: "I'm embarrassed to say I don't know the national anthem yet. I promise - please write this - I promise I will learn it and quiz me next time."

Robson’s victory over Crawford, the world No 393, earned a second-round encounter in Arthur Ashe Stadium this afternoon with Clijsters, who is retiring after this tournament. The Belgian has won the US Open three times and has not been beaten here since 2003.

Clijsters has practised with Robson and has followed her career with interest. "She's a great ball‑striker," the former world No 1, said. "I felt when she came on tour she was still able to improve a lot physically. When she's behind the ball, she hits the ball so clean and has a very good eye for the ball as well. It’s going to be very important to be going for the lines and to try to get her out of her comfort zone a little bit."