Wed, Jul 05, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Konta overpowers Hsieh in first round

THE WHOLE SHEBANG:Japan’s Kei Nishikori crushed Italy’s Marco Cecchinato, saying afterward that he felt healthy and confident, and aims to win the tournament

Reuters, LONDON

Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei serves to Britain’s Johanna Konta in their Wimbledon women’s singles first-round match at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London on Monday.

Photo: AFP

British No. 1 Johanna Konta on Monday took revenge on Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei at Wimbledon, sending the Taiwanese home 6-2, 6-2 after losing to her in the first round of the French Open.

The sixth seed beat two Grand Slam champions in a day on the grass at last week’s rain-interrupted Eastbourne International, arriving in brimming with form, but had been an injury scare after a heavy fall forced her to withdraw from her semi-final.

However, she appeared to be moving well in front of a cheering Court One crowd and told reporters she felt “absolutely fine.”

“I was really just trying to stay as focused on what I was trying to do out there, and not necessarily get caught up in her web,” the 26-year-old said of Hsieh, who had beaten her in three sets on the Paris clay.

With the women’s field wide open in the absence of pregnant titleholder and 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams, Konta is among the women being tipped for a run at the title — 40 years after Briton Virginia Wade lifted the trophy in 1977.

If Konta were to achieve that, it would propel her to celebrity status in Britain, joining world No. 1 and Wimbledon defending champion Andy Murray.

“I definitely would like to be involved here for the full fortnight to help, I guess, put tennis on the map that much more, but I think Andy’s done a pretty tremendous job of doing that,” she said.

Fellow Eastbourne semi-finalist Heather Watson, last year’s Wimbledon mixed doubles champion with Henri Kontinen, also reached the second round, beating Belgium’s Maryna Zanevska 6-1, 7-6 (7/5) to the delight of the fans chanting her name on Court Two.

“I love being here. I think it’s obvious. I always want to do well. If there’s one tournament that I could pick to win, it would be this one,” said wild card Watson, the British No. 2 and world 102. “It’s the most famous tournament in the world. It’s amazing to be a part of. I always want to just do well here.”

Watson plays Latvian 18th seed Anastasija Sevastova in round two. Konta is to take on Croatia’s Donna Vekic, who beat her in the Eastbourne final last month.

In men’s singles, Japan’s Kei Nishikori believes he can win Wimbledon this year after breezing through his first-round clash with Italy’s Marco Cecchinato 6-2, 6-2, 6-0.

The ninth seed did not disappoint the legion of Japanese fans who gave him a hero’s welcome as he walked onto Court 12, demolishing an opponent who was playing his first senior-level match on grass.

Nishikori said afterward that he was confident he could eclipse his best performance at Wimbledon — the last 16 in 2014 and last year — and that he aimed to “win the whole thing.”

“That’s my goal,” he said. “I hope I can make it.”

Japan’s highest-ever ranked player did not show any sign of the injuries that have forced him out of the past five grass-court tournaments he has contested since 2015, including at the Gerry Weber Open in Germany last month.

The 27-year-old said he could not pin down the reason for his run of injuries on grass — variously affecting his calf, hip and ribs — but added that he struggled with the summer switch from clay courts.

“Now I’m feeling very good, feeling 100 percent again,” he said. “I hope I can stay healthy these two weeks.”

Nishikori outclassed Cecchinato from the first point, powering a backhand winner down the line.

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