WIn one of the most anticipated first round matches of the new season, Johanna Konta cruised past third seed Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the 2019 Brisbane International to record her 15th career top ten victory.
The British number one celebrated New Year's Day by converting on four of her ten break point opportunities while posting a solid 72 percent on her first serves in the one hour, 52 minute clash in knocking off the American in their first career meeting.
Konta is through to the second round to face Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic for a spot in the last eight. The pair will square off in this same round for the second straight year after the Brit claimed a three-set win in 2018.
Konta takes opening set
The first three games were, as expected, incredibly close with Konta saving two break points in her first service game, lasting ten minutes and two more in her second, the Brit's forehand getting her out of trouble.
With a 2-1 lead, the former world number four applied her first bit of pressure on the Stephens serve in another long game, converting on her third break chance when the world number six misfired with a forehand.
Ahead 3-1, Konta extended her lead with efficient serving, posting a pair of comfortable holds to take a 5-2 lead. Serving to stay in the set, the American saved a set point and proceeded to break the Brit, thumping a return to get the set back on serve.
Brit claims win to kick-start new season
Following a 12-minute delay to tend to an ill spectator prior to the start of the second set, it was Stephens who gained the upper hand, saving a break point before claiming the breakthrough, breaching the world number 37's serve to take a 2-1 lead.
The eighth game proved to be decisive as Stephens held a 40-15 lead on serve, wasting one game point with another double fault. After a string of miscues, the American surrendered her serve for the fourth time in the contest.
Serving for the match at 5-3, Konta quickly raced to a 30-0 lead and set up three match points with a thumping forehand. She only needed one chance to secure the victory as Stephens sent one last backhand long, the American's poor form in Australia continuing.
Post-match thoughts from victorious Konta
Following her victory, the Brit spoke about the contest: "I knew going into the match that Sloane is going to be playing very well and that there will be pockets of time where I have very little say in the match.
"She's an incredibly gifted athlete and player and she can raise her level in part so I was definitely going into the match not really expecting anything and more just playing each point as it came and try to just react well for the balls that were coming off of her racquet and being obviously clear on how I wanted to play my points as well".
The world number 37 pointed toward the start of the match as the tone-setter: "I think the first three games took like half an hour, so it was very, very close at the beginning a lot of close games. We pretty much maintained like that throughout the whole match".
Paying tribute to Stephens' recent success, Konta said she is "Top 10 and has had an incredible couple of seasons. I definitely take a lot of good things from that and a bit of a pat on the back for me that I competed well against one of the best players in the world and I came through.
"We have a lot of battles against some of the best players in the world where you just miss out and it's nice when you are able to come through."