Johanna Konta has begun her 2018 Wimbledon campaign with a battling 7-5, 7-6 (7) victory over Natalia Vikhlyantseva. The Brit won just her second match at a major this year and needed six match points to close out the 21-year old Russian.
Konta leaves it late to take the first set
Both players have powerful serves, so it was no surprise that the few first games went by quickly with the returner winning just two points over the first four games.
The world number 103 had the first chance, a slight opening at 15-30 erased as Konta came through the game by winning the next three points. She would get to deuce on Vikhlyantseva's service game, but the Russian held strong for a 4-3 lead.
Both players continued to be virtually untouchable on serve and the set appeared destined for a tiebreak, but in the tenth game, Vikhlyantseva would double fault twice and at 0-40, the Russian fired wide to give Konta a 6-5 edge.
The two-time major semifinalist raced out to a 40-0 lead, 11 points on the trot now and three set points. After an unforced error made it 40-15, a big serve got the job done and Konta was a set to the good.
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Brit survives tiebreak to set up Cibulkova clash
Vikhylantseva was understandably frustrated as she was rarely challenged on serve before that last game and she dumped her opening service game to 15, handing Konta the initiative.
The Russian was able to dial up some powerful forehands to get to deuce on the Brit's serve, but Konta held steady to consolidate the break for a 2-0 lead. Both players would exchange easy holds followed by holds to 30, the 22nd seed ahead 4-3.
The world number 103 was handed a lifeline when Konta double-faulted, bringing up three break points and she duly took it at the third time of asking, the Brit flying another groundstroke long.
Vikhlyantseva continued to apply the pressure and held two set points, but a pair of unforced errors got Konta out of trouble. Both players held to send the second set to a tiebreak.
A fast start from last year's semifinalist saw her go up 3-0 with an ace and she extended her advantage to 6-2, holding four match points. Befitting of her 2018 so far, Vikhlyantseva rallied, a poor lob from the Brit and some big serves swatting away all of those match points.
Konta would be gifted the next point as the Russian hit wide, a challenge confirming that and on her sixth match point, a crosscourt forehand into the open court sealed victory and a date with Dominika Cibulkova in the second round.
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Post-match thoughts from Konta
Following the match, Konta expressed that "first rounds are really tricky as were the conditions. It was really breezy and gusty". However, she seemed to be fine with it: "I enjoyed every second of it. I didn't do too much wrong, but have to acknowledge how she held her game well.
Despite not having the same form as she did last year, the Brit is expecting to have a long stay at this year's Championships: "I am working hard to be here for a full two weeks. I stayed tough out there.
"There were points where I didn't make the right decision but I am my own biggest fan, so I need to keep feeding myself positive thoughts. I love being at home and I'm loving every second of it."