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The Draw: 30 June

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Tuesday, 7 June 2016 10:02 AM BST
Aegon Open Nottingham Day 1: Konta celebrates top-20 ranking with dominant win recaps the action from Day one at the Aegon Open Nottingham. READ MORE

Johanna Konta continues to break new ground and opened up her Aegon Open Nottingham as the first British female in the world top 20 since 1983.

The Australian Open semi-finalist has surged up the rankings in the last year to be rewarded with a new position of world No.18.

“It’s quite an interesting one, the ranking has to catch up with the race at some point. It goes both ways for good and bad. It was funny to see me move up the rankings seen as I didn’t pick up any points in the last tournament (losing first round at Roland Garros). It’s a nice thing to see but I’m focused on my run here.”

Back on home turf on the grass at Nottingham, the British No.1 illustrated to the local fans why she has managed to reach the upper echelons of the game.

Konta suffered an immediate break from American Victoria Duval, who was playing just her second tournament of 2016 following knee surgery, to fall 0-2 down.

Slicing a brace of astute drop shots, Konta restored parity with a forehand down the line doing the damage which was applauded by the perplexed American.

Konta found her range on serve and at 3-3 struck the crucial break with a barrage of overpowering shots off each wing to subsequently secure an assured 6-3 opener.

Duval, now world No.580, was unable to cope with the ferocity of the ball-striking from the British No.1. Konta was finding the angles and drawing Duval across the baseline at will.

“I’m very happy with the level that both of us played at today, I had to dig deep and keep fighting. My opponent came out playing very, very well, so I needed to knuckle down straight away and fight for every point and run down every single ball.”

The 25-year-old is back on home courts with a raised profile but is keen to quell expectations.

“Pressure is very much an external thing, it just depends how I interpret it,” insisted the British No.1. “I’m not going to win every tennis match that I play and as long as I keep myself healthy and the levels of enjoyment at where I want them to be then I give myself the best chance of competing the way that I want to.”

Konta evidently appreciated the extra support from the British crowd, “I love this tournament, I love this centre court, it’s a very pretty one , so hopefully the crowds keep coming out to support me. It was nice to hear a louder cheer for your name when walking out.”

Top seed Karolina Pliskova will be quizzing her sister Kristyna, who was defeated by Anna Tatishvili 6-4, 7-6(4), ahead of the second round.

The world No.17 will be Tatishvili’s next opponent having battled back from a set down to prevail 6-7(5), 6-0, 6-2 over Anastasia Sevastova on a sun-baked centre court.

“Definitely, I hope she can give me some advice for the next match. I’ll ask her about their match, it was pretty open with them, but I hope I will improve from today.”

Pliskova was relieved to dominate with her blistering serve on debut in Nottingham.

“It was tough mentally because I was 5-1 in the first set tie-break, so that was a little frustrating but I couldn’t make it.

“I didn’t lose my serve once in the first set, so I kept believing, stepped up to the court and was playing more aggressive on return. So I’m happy I managed to turn it around.”

Pliskova launched into the second set by breaking to love and dispatched the remaining games with consummate ease.

“The first set was so tough that maybe she dropped a bit and lost concentration, I was able to apply pressure on her serve,” added the Czech.

“It’s a good start, it was a good quality of match even if I had lost today. So far I’m playing all the weeks before Wimbledon, it’s important to get as many matches in the grass because in Czech we don’t have any grass courts for practice.”

“I’m the top seed so I should win this tournament but it doesn’t always work like this, there are some tough opponents here. To be honest I’m happy that I’m not playing my sister in the next round and I’ll try anything to keep going in the tournament.”

Freya Christie, a Nottingham local, made a WTA main draw debut on Monday and performed valiantly.

Having snatched an early break, world No.85 Saisai Zheng held off a spirited fight from Christie to win 6-4, 6-2 to secure a match-up with Konta in the second round.

Former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki is poised to make her mark back on the tour having been hampered by a right ankle injury.

“It’s nice to be in the sunshine in the UK, getting back into the routine and I hope to find my form.

“I’m hitting well, I’m practising well and I’d love to win the tournament but I haven’t played competitively in 10 weeks, so I’m going to go out and do my best,” declared the Dane.

“I’m excited to be here for the first time, it’s a new experience and that doesn’t happen too often.

“Being the first grass court tournament of the year was very appealing, It’s a good field to get straight onto the grass courts and have a longer prep-season for Wimbledon rather than my usual week in Eastbourne.”

The world No.34 feels rejuvenated following the forced absence and made the most of some unscheduled spare time.

“To be honest I haven’t watched any of the tennis, I’ve been busy with everything else, so it’s been nice to have a break. I’ve been enjoying doing my own thing, a bit of ‘normal’ life, but I’m glad to be back on tour and excited to play again.”