JOHANNA KONTA is up and running at this year’s Wimbledon but she had to dig deep to see off world number 88 Natalia Vikhlyantseva.
The British number one, who reached the semi-finals last year, was a 7-5 7-6 (9/7) winner on a hot but blustery Court Two.
Konta needs to avoid an early exit at this year’s championships to prevent herself potentially slipping out of the world’s top 50.
Her opponent, the 21-year-old Russian, was a tricky but inconsistent player with only one grand slam event win to her name. Vikhlyantseva still managed to give the 22nd seed plenty of problems.
A break point for Konta came and went in the seventh game, the 27-year-old slipping on the baseline as Vikhlyantseva’s forehand wrong-footed her.
The pair were locked at 5-5 but two double faults, a clubbing Konta forehand and a long backhand from Vikhlyantseva secured the break.
Having served out the opening set, Konta immediately broke again, turning an awkward-looking return into a breathtaking cross-court winner.
A sloppy service game allowed Vikhlyantseva to level matters at 4-4 and Konta then had to fend off two set points on serve.
In the tie-break Konta, the 22nd seed, squandered five match points but made the sixth count with a forehand volley to progress safely, if not entirely convincingly, to round two.
‘The first round is always tricky, both players are trying to find their level,’ she said afterwards on the BBC.
‘The conditions were tricky, it was very breezy, and there were some nerves there, but I enjoyed every second of it and no matter how long I was out there I was going to fight for every point.
‘There are some things I should have done better but she played some good points as well. I’m working very hard to be here for the whole two weeks.’
Konta faces Dominika Cibulkova next. The Slovakian presents a danger after only missing out on a seeding when Serena Williams was bumped up from her ranking outside the top 100.
■ BRITISH 21st men’s seed Kyle Edmund won 6-2 6-3 7-5 against Australian Alex Boltin the first round at Wimbledon.
Edmund was in complete control during the first two sets and did not drop a point on his first serve while breaking Australian qualifier Bolt four times.
The third set was trickier, with Bolt breaking Edmund for the first time and serving for it. He forced a set point but Edmund saved it and reeled off four games in a row to win.