Johanna Konta and Katie Boulter claim victories in Melbourne

Britain’s Johanna Konta and Katie Boulter had strong wins in Melbourne as the countdown to the Australian Open continues.

Fifth seed Konta defeated Bernarda Pera 6-2 6-3 in 81 minutes in the second round of the Gippsland Trophy at Melbourne Park, with the British number one crucially saving three break points on her way to victory.

The 63rd-ranked American struggled with her serve throughout and double-faulted six times before being broken for match point, while Konta got into a rhythm early as she continues her recovery from a knee problem.

Boulter, ranked down at 371 after a lengthy spell out with a back injury in 2019 and playing at just her second WTA event in close to two years, managed to stun American teenager Coco Gauff 3-6 7-5 6-2.

The 24-year-old began her season the day before with a dominant victory against 107th-ranked Russian Anna Kalinskaya, but had to battle hard to defeat Gauff, with the fourteenth-seeded 16-year-old double-faulting three times in the final game.

Meanwhile, Heather Watson said she was “not putting a lot of pressure on myself” ahead of the Grampians Trophy, which begins on Wednesday in Melbourne.

The world number 58 left hotel quarantine on Friday and told reporters she was “super excited” to begin training on actual courts but was taking a considered approach to the warm-up tournament.

“It’s obviously unusual circumstances, so I’m just, it will be interesting to see how my body is tomorrow, just see how it goes, but I’m not really putting a lot of pressure on myself for this next tournament,” she said in comments carried by Tennis Australia

“And, yeah, like I said, it’s a really unique situation, so I’ve just got to sort of play it by ear, play it day by day.”

It comes after Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the tournament to focus on the Australian Open, which marks her first WTA match in more than a year.

Dan Evans, seeded eighth in the Murray Open, will begin his campaign in Melbourne in the second round on Wednesday after he received a bye and will face Portugal’s Pedro Sousa.