ROME, Italy -- 2019 finalist Johanna Konta of Great Britain booked what has by now become her usual spot in the round of 16 at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Thursday, easing past qualifier Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, 6-0, 6-4.
"I think I’m building on each match as I’m playing," Konta told the media, after the victory. "It is a very different, very strange, very unorthodox mini-season for us, so it is going to be a lot of flexibility, we’re going to have to stay very adaptable. But I don’t think there’s any reason why I can’t keep building on my level and play good tennis."
Making her fifth straight appearance in the Rome main draw, No.7 seed Konta has now made the round of 16 all five times. After falling in that round thrice between 2016 and 2018, the Brit had her big breakthrough at the tournament last year, when she went all the way to the final before being defeated by Karolina Pliskova.
In her first meeting with Begu, World No.13 Konta stormed past the Romanian after one hour and 23 minutes of play. The Brit had 22 winners to 12 unforced errors, and she won nearly three-quarters of points off of her first serve, while taking almost 70 percent of points when returning the Begu second service.
Former Top 25 player Begu posted her career-best result at a Premier 5 event at Rome in 2016, when she reached the semifinals, defeating Victoria Azarenka en route, before losing to Serena Williams. Against Konta, though, the World No.77 could only garner one break of serve, deep into the match, and was undone by 17 unforced errors, compared to 12 winners.
Konta will now face No.9 seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain in the round of 16, after the former World No.1 gritted past Coco Gauff in three sets earlier on Thursday. Konta and Muguruza have split their four previous meetings, with Muguruza coming out on top in their last encounter, a tough three-set tussle at the 2019 Australian Open.
"We’ve had plenty of battles, hopefully tomorrow will be another great battle," said Konta. "She’s definitely played some very, very good tennis this year, so that’s the Garbine I’m expecting to play tomorrow: very in-form, very confident, and she’s always been a great player. It’ll be a great challenge and a great opportunity for me to play her again."
A powerful return to earn a service break in the first game set the tone of the opening frame for Konta, as she dominated the set with overwhelming hitting. The Brit gritted her way to a second break and a 3-0 lead, as Begu faltered with a double fault on break point in that game, and Konta had no issues holding for a commanding 4-0 advantage.
The last two games of the set were slightly more complex. Begu slammed an ace to give herself game point for 4-1, but Konta again blasted her way to control with power and precision, earning a third straight break for 5-0.
Then, serving for the set, Konta had to face a break point for the very first time, but she steered back to set point, where a deep groundstroke forced an error, claiming the bagel over Begu. Konta fired 10 winners in the set, with only three unforced errors in her stats column.
More relentless hitting, often from the forehand wing, propelled Konta to a healthy lead in the second set as well. After Begu got on the scoreboard with a hold in the first game, Konta took command again, breaking the Romanian in her next two service games to open up a 4-1 advantage.
Begu made a charge in the latter stages of the second set, exhibiting the clay-court skills that has brought her to three WTA singles finals on the surface, including a title at Bucharest in 2017. The Romanian used outstanding defense to break Konta for 4-2 and consolidate in the next game, drawing ever closer to a potential comeback.
Konta, though, would not be denied, even after a love hold by Begu to push the set to 5-4. Serving for the match, the Brit pulled her way back from 15-30 to match point. On that occasion, Konta found a strong serve to set up one final forehand winner, moving into the round of 16 in Rome, as is her custom.