Johanna Konta ends French Open first-round hoodoo but isn’t getting too excited

Britain's Johanna Konta prepares to serve to Germany's Antonia Lottner. Picture: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty
Britain's Johanna Konta prepares to serve to Germany's Antonia Lottner. Picture: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty
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The stage has been set perfectly but Johanna Konta missed her cue.

For the first time in her life, she had every right to use the tried and trusted mantra: “I’m taking it one match at a time.” For the first time, she had had more than one match to ponder in Paris, but still she would not bite.

Konta had just won her first main draw match at Roland Garros, breaking a run of four consecutive defeats on the slow, red clay of Paris. It was not pretty and it was not what you might call emphatic but Konta beat Antonia Lottner, the world No 147 from Germany, 6-4, 6-4. Finally, she had broken her duck at the French Open. But was she dancing in the boulevards and rues? Not so much.

“I think it was a bigger deal to you guys than it was to me, to be honest,” she shrugged. “Obviously I’m pleased to have come through that match. It’s nice to have won a main-draw match here. That’s obviously nice. But I didn’t really look at it too much like that.

“I think I was just, more than anything, happy to have dealt with the challenges of today. And she was a tricky player to play. And, yeah, overall just pleased to have come through.”

No matter that she had been a top-ten player in her previous visits to Paris, she still could never find a way to win. And then yesterday, despite there being seven breaks of serve in the ten games of the first set, she finally got her ticket to that second round.

“I think more than anything, I was just pleased with how I was able to just handle the challenges,” Konta said. “There wasn’t much rhythm in the match. I think that presents its own type of challenge. I was just happy that I was able to just really stay calm through that.

“And also, when I found myself in tricky situations or break points down 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.”

She will now have to find a way to handle the diminutive Lauren Davis, the world No 111 from the United States who beat Krystina Pliskova – the lower ranked of the Czech twins – 6-2, 6-4. Standing only 5ft 2ins to Konta’s 5ft 11ins, Davis has spent much of her life trying to be a giant killer. But when it comes to slaying Britain’s No 1, she has only managed that once in three meetings and the two have not played since 2013.

“She’s a very good competitor,” Konta said, “very good mover, very good. A very good opponent to have, I think.”

At last, she has another match to prepare for. One match at a time, Jo, one match at a time.

Whether Kyle Edmund gets a shot at another match remains to be seen. After three hours and 55 minutes of lung-bursting graft yesterday, Britain’s main man was sitting at 5-5 in the fifth set against Jeremy Chardy when the match was called off due to bad light.

Playing a Frenchman on Court One, the famous old court shaped like a bullring, is not for the faint-hearted and as the afternoon moved on into the evening, the Parisians made their presence felt. They cheered every move that Chardy made, they chanted their hero’s name and started Mexican waves at the change of ends. There was very little doubt who the crowd was rooting for.

For the first three sets, there was barely a gnat’s whisker between them although, when the crowd first began to get involved in the second set, Edmund, pictured, started to waver. Yet back he came in the third set and again there was no clear favourite for a spot in the second round.

But come the fourth set, the wheels came off in spectacular fashion for the No 28 seed. In no time at all he was 5-1 down and fending off two set points. When he saved them both, he got a new lease of life and, while he could not stop Chardy from taking the set, he was back in business at the start of the fifth.

From there, Edmund and Chardy edged ever closer to the finish line with next to nothing between them (Edmund faced and saved two break points) until the light began to fade. They will back, weather permitting, today to settle their differences.