Johanna Konta simultaneously laid a ghost and a marker in Rome on Wednesday, overpowering the artful but lightweight Hsieh Su-wei, who knocked her out of the French Open in the first round a year ago.
This time, there was never a moment when Britain’s best was in danger of further embarrassment against the doubles specialist with the delightful touch and buzzing tennis intelligence, brushing her aside in just over an hour on Court No3, 6-0, 6-4. The first set flew by in 19 minutes (her third bagel in three years here), the second about twice as long, when the Taipei veteran broke twice then faded.
Konta needed a convincing win after a few jitters in her two-set win over Magdalena Rybarikova on Monday. Next up she plays the combative fifth seed, Jelena Ostapenko, who went through to the third round by beating Shuai Zhang 6-2, 7-5 on day two.
In their only meeting, Konta beat Ostapenko 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 on the Eastbourne grass last summer. But the 20-year-old Latvian is a different proposition on clay, having beaten Simona Halep to win the French Open last year.
On Wednesday, Konta’s serve again was sharp, winning her the point 24 of 32 first efforts, but dipping to 33 per cent on second serve. She is moving well and looks superbly fit.
Elsewhere on day three, there were entertaining contretemps on Court Pietrangeli, where sixth seed Karolina Pliskova was so incensed by a poor line call in the penultimate game of her three-set loss to the up-and-coming Maria Sakkari that she battered the side of the umpire’s chair.
Sakkari, advised by Kyle Edmund’s agent, Laurence Frankopan, and briefly coached by Mark Petchey last year, stunned Pliskova to win 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Halep, meanwhile, completed a 6-0, 6–1 rout of Naomi Osaka in less than an hour. Osaka, who defeated the Romanian on the way to her first WTA title at Indian Wells in March, was overwhelmed by the top seed at the Italian Open, who now faces Madison Keys.
In the men’s draw there was a straightforward win for Rafael Nadal, who defeated Damir Džumhur 6–0, 6–1. However, Dominic Thiem, who ended Nadal’s 50-set winning run on clay in Madrid last week, lost in three sets to Fabio Fognini, 4–6, 6–1, 3–6.