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Qualifying begins: 26 June

The Draw: 30 June

Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July

Order of Play: 2 July

Championships begin: 3 July


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Wednesday, 5 July 2017 15:24 PM BST
Konta digs deep to survive Centre Court thriller
British No.1 needs over three hours in the heat to get past Croatian world No.58 10-8 in the decider READ MORE

Johanna Konta looks as if she means business at The Championships 2017; and in her first two rounds here, the precise nature of that business has been avenging recent defeats.

On Monday she easily reversed the Roland Garros first round loss she suffered five weeks ago at the hands of Su-Wei Hseih; and on day three she dug deep to redress her defeat to Donna Vekic in the Nottingham final just a couple of weeks back.

In baking Centre Court sunshine, the No.6 seed saved two set points in the high-tempo opening chapter as she toughed her way to a hugely satisfying 7-6(4), 4-6, 10-8 victory. She is now through to the third round here for the first time in six attempts.

Afterwards, however, Konta was keen to bat back all talk of a key breakthrough, or this win indicating her ability to deal with competitive pressure.

“You guys keep talking about this pressure, and I keep sounding like a broken record, but for me, pressure is very self-imposed,” said Konta, who amusingly only knew that her third-round opponent will be the world No.101 Maria Sakkari when she asked the media in her press conference.

“I'm approaching this event like I am every other event. I'm here to compete the best that I can. A breakthrough? I'm seeing it as I get to be still involved in the Championships. I don't really believe in breakthroughs or turning points, but rather continuous building and continuous work in every single match and practice that I have.

“But I absolutely love playing in front of Brit crowds. Not many players get a home slam. Being on this Centre Court is pretty special, how the crowd lived and died with the match, and their appreciation for us both.”

Vekic, who turned 21 last week, was a WTA title winner at the age of 17, but the anticipated full blossoming of that potential has never quite come to pass.

Startlingly, that Nottingham title win last month saw her first back-to-back main draw wins since September 2015; and almost equally unusually, her Nottingham triumph was sandwiched between first round defeats on the lawns of Birmingham and Eastbourne.

Having never previously trodden the sacred Centre Court turf before, the world No.58 was once again at her most resourceful against Konta.

Watched from her players’ box by her boyfriend Stan Wawrinka, Vekic saved two break points in the opening game of the match, after which her composure assuredly kicked in.

Konta produced well-crafted work at the net to save a break point for 3-5, but mistakes from the Briton put Vekic in the driving seat.

When 26-year-old Konta fended off two set points with fighting play, Vekic’s level wilted with double faults and a fluffed crosscourt forehand to put her opponent back on terms at 5-5.

Konta’s forehand was causing serious damage, although she allowed four chances to break for 6-5 to go begging. But in the tie-break, the weapon was made to count time and again, taking her to 24 winners for the set.

I don't really believe in breakthroughs or turning points, but rather continuous building and continuous work

- Johanna Konta

A bathroom break by Vekic interrupted that momentum. On her return she broke at once, and while Konta levelled, a second break was too much and Vekic’s poise carried her through.

As the match progressed, as ever it was fascinating to watch Konta’s particular brand of match focus, evident in her assorted unconscious rituals – the steady gaze downwards when seated at the changeover, the tiny hopping steps when receiving the ball to serve, the uniquely measured style of her ball bounce when standing on the baseline before delivery.

Not one who is naturally at ease with the celebrity which accompanies global tennis excellence, she is perhaps still figuring out how best to feed off the energy of a Centre Court crowd willing her on.

In the decider neither player would give ground, with Vekic returning better but Konta delivering more winners. It was not until 6-6 that either so much as blinked, when Konta saved the first break point of the set.

At 8-8 she rescued another. Then finally, when Vekic served for the fifth time to stay in the match, the Croatian saved one match point with an ace, but a second saw her resilience finally give out.

The players’ embrace at the net was a fitting conclusion. After three hours and ten minutes, this magnificent encounter was done.

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