The first match of the day on Day 3 of Wimbledon on Centre Court was a pulsating encounter between sixth seed Johanna Konta and Donna Vekic. The Croat defeated Konta at the Aegon Open in Nottingham last month to win her second career but the world number 58 was unable to win on this occasion.
Konta had a lot to play for in this second round encounter with the Croat, who turned 21 last Wednesday as the sixth seed was aiming to reach the third round of Wimbledon for the first time in her career, and she was looking to win her first victory on Centre Court after losing to Maria Sharapova and to Eugenie Bouchard in the last two years. It was a three hour and 10-minute tussle which Konta came out on the right end of the score, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 10-8 in three hours and 10 minutes.
Konta will face Greece's Maria Sakkari for a place in the fourth round on Friday with a possible fourth round clash with two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova looming.
Konta saves set points to take the first set
The sixth seed almost got the dream start at the start of this match as she created two break points on the Croat's serve. Nonetheless, Vekic held serve producing some good serves, and Konta restored parity at 1-1 with a hold to love.
Vekic continued to apply the pressure on Konta as she held serve easily in her next service game. The Brit also endured a tougher time on her serve but she came through it with the opening set nicely poised at 2-2.
Both players continued to produce some good tennis as both players did not hold back on their backhands, and produced some ripping forehand winners. The duo continued to hold onto their serves as it was getting towards the business end of the set.
The Croat is currently one spot off her career-high ranking of 57 at 58 in the world, and she produced some more good serving, and forehand winners down the line, to extend her lead to 4-3. However, the turning point of the match came in the second set
as Konta played a poor game as she trailed 0-40. She saved the first break point by producing a sweet half-volley winner at the net.
Unfortunately, the British crowds saw Konta lose her serve, as Vekic returned terrifically forcing the Brit's forehand to sail long and the 21-year-old was serving for the first set at 5-3. It seemed extremely likely that Vekic would take the first set as she raced out to a 40-15 lead but there was good ball striking from the Brit which forced Vekic to lose her two set points.
The world number 58 committed an untimely double fault to hand Konta a break point which was snuffed out with an ace down the T but another opportunity quickly followed as Vekic committed a double fault. The Brit broke by virtue of Vekic serving down the middle but committed a wild forehand unforced error.
Both players held onto their serves, and Konta had the opportunity to break Vekic's serve to serve for the second set but failed to do so. The destination of the first set was a tiebreak.
The duo failed to win points on their serves as the opening set tiebreak was poised at 2-2. However, Vekic won the first point by producing a good body serve, forcing the error from Konta to lead 3-2. The Brit would win the next two points, and she produced a scintillating low backhand winner down the line to lead 4-3.
The 21-year-old leveled the tiebreak at 4-4 but the sixth seed would step it up as she gained the minibreak by producing a forehand return down the line, forcing the error from Vekic. Konta created her first set point by producing a forehand winner down the line, and she took it with a good serve out wide, as Vekic's forehand sailed into the net, taking it 7-6 (4) in a lengthy one hour and seven minutes clash.
Vekic fights back to send the match into a deciding set
The Croat went off the court at the conclusion of the first set, and it proved to make a slight difference as she broke Konta's serve at the start of the second set. Vekic consolidated the break to lead 2-0.
The sixth seed remained in touch with the world number 58 as she held to serve in her next service game. Moreover, the Brit amped up the pressure on Vekic as she raced out to a 0-40 lead, and Konta broke back by producing a good return of serve and a forehand winner down the line to level proceedings at 2-2.
Furthermore, the 21-year-old remained in control of this second set as she broke Konta's serve for the second time of the set to lead 3-2. Vekic remained calm and composed as she continued to serve well, and produce more aces at 15-40, she saved two break points and extended her lead to 4-2.
Both players held onto their serve to love in their next two service games and Konta had to hold onto serve to stay in the second set. She had some problems but she eventually held onto her serve asking Vekic the serve it out question.
Konta stretched out to a 15-30 lead on the Croat's serve as Vekic committed a double fault, however, the serve bailed her out of trouble, and she took the first set with a good serve out wide, to take the match to a final set, just like she did in Nottingham, when she won the title.
Konta breaks new ground to reach the third round for the first time
The temperatures were sweltering on Centre Court, and both players went off the court for a comfort break. The two players remained in trouble in their opening service games of the set, and Konta had the advantage of serving first in the final set, and she did not lose a point with two service holds to love, stretching out to a 2-1 lead.
The final set was serve dominated as both players were holding to love and to 15, by producing aces, unreturnable serves, and good serves.
At 3-3, Konta displayed some good tennis after she trailed at 0-15. The sixth seed produced back-to-back forehand and backhand winners down the line to extend her lead to 4-3.
Both players continued to remain untroubled on their serves, and no player faced a break point at 6-6. There are no final set tiebreakers at Wimbledon, and Konta had the advantage of serving first.
However, she was under pressure on her serve for the first time at 0-30 as she committed a double fault, and she committed a low backhand unforced error in the net in a lengthy rally. However, she held serve to lead 7-6 with some good serving.
Vekic held her serve to restore parity at 7-7 after serving to stay in the match for the third time. The Brit got out of a little spot of bother at 0-30 in her next service game at 0-30 once again but she continued to serve brilliantly at a crucial point of the match to lead 8-7.
The world number 58 was under pressure once more as she had to serve to stay in the match for the fourth time, and Konta was two points away from victory at 0-30. However, she produced three successive unreturnable serves down the middle and Konta failed to punish the second serve as the final set was locked in at 8-8.
The sixth seed had to fend off a break point in the 17th game of the final set after trailing 0-30 but once again her good serving and forehands bailed her out of trouble to lead 9-8.
Unfortunately, Vekic was unable to hang on as she trailed at 0-30, she produced a good serve down the middle, followed by a forehand winner down the line. However, she handed Konta her first match point by committing a forehand unforced error. She snuffed it out by producing an ace out wide. Moreover, a second one quickly followed by producing a forehand winner down the line. Vekic's forehand broke down the net, and a jubilant Konta won the match, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 10-8 in a three hour and ten-minute marathon.
By the numbers
Both players served well in this encounter with Konta producing 12 aces in contrast to Vekic's 11. The sixth seed got 63 percent of her first serves in and she got 81 percent of her first serves in. Moreover, Vekic got 56 percent of the points on her first serve and won 78 percent of the points on it.
Konta also produced 55 winners and committed 21 unforced errors in the net, whereas, Vekic produced 42 winners and committed 24 unforced errors in the net. The match was serve dominated and both players managed to break each other's serve on just three occasions.