INDIAN WELLS, United States (AFP) - Australian Open quarter-finalist Johanna Konta held off Heather Watson in an all-British battle on Friday (March 10) to secure a third-round berth in the Indian Wells WTA hard court tournament.
As the 32 seeded women who enjoyed first-round byes hit the courts in the California desert, world number 11 Konta led the way with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over her 108th-ranked compatriot.
"It definitely wasn't easy," said Konta, who is in pursuit of a second title of 2017 to go with the one she captured in Sydney in January.
"It's especially challenging when you're playing a member of your own Fed Cup team."
After pocketing a see-saw first set that saw five breaks of serve, Konta appeared to be on her way with two service breaks for a 4-1 lead in the second.
She hadn't faced a break point in the second set and was serving for the match at 5-3 when she suddenly dropped her serve with a game bookended by two of her three double-faults of the match.
After Watson held at love Konta got another chance and didn't falter, locking it up on her first match point.
"I think it's definitely challenging to adapt to conditions here," Konta said. "It's drier and the ball flies further."
Konta enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2016, reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open and winning her first WTA title at the prestigious Stanford hardcourt tournament.
She had been on a nine-match winning streak to start 2017 when she ran into eventual champion Serena Williams in the quarters in Melbourne this year.
World number three Karolina Pliskova and reigning French Open champion Garbine Muguruza were also fighting for third-round berths on Friday.
Big-serving Czech Pliskova, who also reached the Australian Open quarter-finals, faced a potentially tricky opener against Puerto Rico's Olympic gold medallist Monica Puig, while Spanish seventh-seed Muguruza took on Belgian veteran Kirsten Flipkens.
Pliskova is aiming to improve on her semi-final run at Indian Wells last year. She has already won two titles in four events this year, at Brisbane and Doha, and coming into the week led the WTA in aces served with 140.