BIRMINGHAM, England - Trailing 5-2 in the second set, No.4 seed Johanna Konta rallied for a straight sets victory over Lesia Tsurenko to reach the second round of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham, 6-3, 7-6(6).
The Ukrainian led 30-0 on serve at 5-3 before the British No.1 won two games on the trot to tie up the set, and though Tsurenko saved two match points with brave play in the tiebreak, a costly mid-point decision to challenge gave Konta the mini-break she needed to serve out the match.
"I think overall the break serves were quite tough. I felt I actually throughout the whole match maybe just dropped my level a little bit. In that one service game, when she broke me and she gained momentum back and actually started playing better as well," Konta assessed. "It was actually really tough to kind of hold on, and then just looking to get back into that set. I felt I stayed in each point quite well. I competed well in each of them.
"I really just tried to do the best that I could - also dealing with her serve, I thought she served quite smart, and I think she varied her spins on that, so it was quite difficult to judge and to adjust. I thought I also did better at that towards the end of that second set."
In the pair's third career meeting and second on the English lawns, a break for Konta in Tsurenko's first service game of the match proved to be the deciding moment in the opening set.
The Ukrainian struggled for accuracy in the opener, as she struck 14 unforced errors to just seven winners, while Konta proved to be the more balanced with five winners to seven errors.
In the second set, Tsurenko began to build on the form she's shown in recent weeks. Off of her best-ever showing at Roland Garros, where she lost to eventual champion Jelena Ostapenko in the third round and a semifinal showing last week at the Ricoh Open where she was also stopped by the eventual champion Anett Kontaveit, Tsurenko would no go quietly against the No.4 seed and British No.1.
The second set turned in the Ukrainian's favor as she began to cut on the unforced errors and surprised the British No.1 by dictating with her forehand, as she secured her first break of serve to lead 3-1 and held on to her lead from there.
Tsurenko's break lead stood up in the set until she stepped to the line to force a third. After falling behind 30-0, Konta stepped up and forced Tsurenko into errors, before coming out on top of a cat-and-mouse point to get back on serve in the set.
The runner-up in Nottingham on Sunday, Konta had a quick turnaround to begin her campaign in Birmingham.
"I think the grass here is a little bit faster than in Nottingham. I think there's just more grass. It's longer grass, I think. I don't know if that's accurate, but it definitely feels like there's just more of it on this surface," she said. "It's a beautiful grass court here as well, so I'm really enjoying playing on the surface here again, and I enjoyed my time on the centre court."
Konta will face Australian Open semifinalist CoCo Vandeweghe in the second round, after she defeated compatriot Christina McHale in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2.
"She's a very big player. She's got a lot of fire power, a lot of weapons, and I know she enjoys the grass," I think it was last year or the year before, she made quarters or fourth round of Wimbledon. She's done well on this surface previously, so I think it'll be a tough match."