Wimbledon 2017: Konta’s marathon effort on epic day for Brits in SW19

The last time Britain could boast two women in the third round of Wimbledon, Wham! was number one in the charts with The Edge of Heaven and Steaua Bucharest had recently shocked Barcelona in the final of the European Cup.

It was the summer of 1986 and Brits Jo Durie and Anne Hobbs made it through two matches each before Martina Navratilova ultimately secured the seventh of nine singles crowns,

A full 31 years on and British tennis fans finally have two more female players to keep an eye out for as the weekend approaches, thanks to the efforts of Heather Watson and Johanna Konta.

A damning indictment of the lack of depth over the last two decades perhaps – but at least reason for general optimism. Especially with Andy Murray and Aljaz Bedene also progressing. That made it the best home performance here since 1997.

Watson got the ball rolling with a swift, yet impressive, 6-0 6-4 win over 18th seed Anastasija Sevastova in just over an hour.

And then sixth seed Konta completed the female double act with a 7-6 4-6 10-8 win over Croatia’s Donna Vekic.

In comparison to the straight sets win by Watson, Konta’s was a marathon effort, taking three hours and ten minutes to secure her first appearance in the third round.

“That was definitely one of the most epic matches I have been a part of,” she said.

“It was one of those matches where it was going to be decided at the very last minute.

“I don’t really believe in breakthroughs or turning points, and I don’t look at my career in that sense.

“I look at it as continuous building and continuous work in every single match and practice that I have.

“But I feel very fortunate to have had the encounters that I’ve had in this event over the years.

“And even this year I feel very lucky for the players that I’ve got to play, because they have challenged me and tested me in so many great ways and that only adds to my depth as a player.

“I think the reason the Brits have been doing well is that we have got great players.

“It’s great to be a part of personally for me. And also something that I’m sure is very exciting to the spectators too.”

Konta has made a habit of rewriting the record books during her rise up in the rankings the last 18 months.

And it is the efforts of Durie, one of the 1986 British third-round representatives and a quarter-finalist two years earlier, she has often matched – and then exceeded.

The 26-year-old had to draw on all the experienced gained in recent months on Centre Court as she came up against a spirited opponent, who had got the better of her last month when beating her to the Nottingham Open title.

Konta saved two set points before going on to take the hour-long opener on a tie-break while she was also a break down early in the second.

Croat Vekic – who was cheered on by world number three boyfriend Stan Wawrinka – levelled in the second before the third went with serve all the way until the final game.

But Konta’s powerful serve and precise groundstrokes aided her and she finally sealed the win when her opponent netted at the conclusion of a 79-minute third set.

She next faces world 101 Maria Sakkari on Friday but despite now being installed among bookmakers as third favourite for the title, Konta refused to get carried away.

“You guys keep talking about this pressure, and I guess I keep sounding like a broken record, but for me, pressure is a very self-imposed thing,” added Konta, who prepared for her second round match by baking muffins for her team.

“I’m approaching this event like I am every other event. I’m coming here to do the best that I can, to compete the best I can.

“But again, what was shown today is that there is no easy match.

“Every single woman in the draw can play at a very high level on any given day. I’m just really enjoying these challenges that I’m being faced with.”

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