Johanna Konta defeated Magdalena Rybarikova for the second week running to make a successful start to her Italian Open campaign in Rome.
The British No 1 defeated her fellow Wimbledon semi-finalist 6-4 6-3 at the Foro Italico to book a second-round tie with either Hsieh Su-wei or Aryna Sabalenka, after her initial first-round opponent Petra Kvitova pulled out following her Madrid Open triumph at the weekend.
Konta, world No 22, suffered a disappointing second-round defeat last week, losing to world No 97 qualifier Bernarda Pera but will now hope to improve on her third-round exit last year, at the hands of Venus Williams, in the Italian capital.
Konta’s fall in world rankings
Johanna Konta moved to world No 4 last July but suffered a dismal second half of last season and has struggled to return to form this year.
The British No 1 has won eight and lost the other eight of her 16 singles matches this season.
The 26-year-old Briton missed 10 break points in her opening three return games but, after being broken in the seventh game of the first set, won 12 of the last 13 points to close out the opening set in strong fashion.
Konta broke Rybarikova in the Slovakian’s opening service game of the second set but recovered from losing three games on the bounce to regain her composure and the lead before securing the hard-fought victory in one hour and 50 minutes.
Naomi Osaka defeated former finalist Victoria Azarenka 6-0 6-3 to book an intriguing second-round meeting with top seed and world No 1 Simona Halep, with the Romanian coming out on top in their only previous meeting on clay.
Roberta Vinci’s farewell match prior to retirement saw the experienced Italian lose 2-6 6-0 6-3 to Aleksandra Krunic. The former US Open finalist began brightly but despite support from a fervent home crowd was unable to extend her final tournament appearance.
“I’m crying now but I’m happy, I’m happy for what I’ve accomplished,” Vinci said.
Madison Keys avoided a repeat first-round exit from last year in Rome as the American convincingly overcame Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 6-1. The world No 14 will next meet Donna Vekic, after the Croatian eased past Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1 6-2.
Petra Martic eased through her first round meeting with Lesia Tsurenko 6-1 6-2 and book a match-up with world No 4 Elina Svitolina.