Jo Konta looking forward to Naomi Osaka challenge after levelling Fed Cup tie

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Jo Konta is relishing the challenge of facing Japan’s rising star Naomi Osaka in their crucial Fed Cup clash in Miki.

Konta brought Great Britain back into the tie with a straight-sets victory over Kurumi Nara to level it at 1-1 after Heather Watson had lost the opening rubber to Osaka.

The British number one holds a 3-0 lead over Osaka in previous meetings but is expecting a difficult encounter on Sunday.

“I haven’t played her in almost exactly a year and I’m looking forward to being on court with her again,” said Konta of facing Osaka after her win over Nara.

“I’m really looking forward to playing against such an in-form player,” added Konta in an interview broadcast on the BBC Sport website.

Of her victory over Nara, Konta added: “I think through the whole match she did an incredible job to rise to the occasion. She used the energy of the crowd. She made it very hard for me.

“I knew I was going to have to earn my way to come through a winner today.”

GB team captain Anne Keothavong was full of praise for Konta’s performance.

She said: “Jo’s just put in a fantastic performance. Her opponent was able to raise her level but Jo was just too good.”

Of the remainder of the tie, Keothavong added: “We’re ready for it. I feel like the team have prepared as well as they could have done and it’s going to be a case of who’s best on the day.”

Konta was never behind in her opening match in the Bourbon Beans Dome which saw her take a comfortable 6-4 6-2 victory over Nara.

The British number one got off to a flying start and broke her opponent’s serve in the opening game, only to be forced to save three break points herself before holding to take a 2-0 lead.

Konta needed a second serve ace to hold in game four for a 3-1 lead, before having to work hard again to win game eight and take a 5-3 lead, forcing Nara to serve to stay in the first set.

Nara was able to do that but Konta came through when she finally took the next game on a fourth set point to win the opener 6-4 when Nara hit a forehand wide.

Nara made a slow start to the second set as she suffered her second service break of the match in the opening game, a powerful backhand return giving Konta a second break point which she took as her opponent double-faulted.

Konta dug deep to save two break points on her own serve in game two before an ace earned her a 2-0 lead as the second set looked like a repeat of the first.

Konta upped the pressure in game three to claim a second break for a 3-0 lead, only for Nara to break back in game four. But Konta broke again to lead 5-2 and then served out for a 6-4 6-2 victory to level the tie.

Osaka made short work of Watson with a 6-2 6-3 victory to make it five wins from as many Fed Cup matches for the Japanese number one.

Osaka broke Watson twice in the opening set and was again too strong in the second as the British number two’s poor form this season continued.

In Sunday’s reverse singles Watson will face Nara and there will be a doubles match featuring Anna Smith and Gabi Taylor if necessary.

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