Italian Open: Johanna Konta beats Irina-Camelia Begu in Rome

Johanna Konta returns a ball against Irina-Camelia Begu in the Italian Open
Konta reached the Rome final last year, losing to Czech fourth seed Karolina Pliskova

British number one Johanna Konta made an impressive return to the clay as she eased past Romania qualifier Irina-Camelia Begu at the Italian Open.

Konta, 29, played confidently and precisely to win 6-0 6-4 against 77th-ranked Begu in the second-round match.

The seventh seed, who was given a first-round bye, won the opener in 29 minutes and maintained a good level.

It was Konta's first match on clay since losing in last year's French Open semi-finals to Marketa Vondrousova.

The world number 13 is hoping to replicate that achievement - and go even further in the Grand Slam tournament - when Roland Garros starts in Paris at the end of this month.

The event, which usually starts in May but has been pushed back by the coronavirus pandemic, begins on 27 September.

Konta is back on the European clay after losing in the US Open second round earlier this month.

Against Begu, Konta started strongly by hitting 10 winners and three unforced errors in a one-sided set where the Romanian only managed to win 12 points.

The Briton's all-round level remained high as she moved 4-1 ahead in the second set and, after Begu earned a break back, Konta kept her discipline to serve out victory.

Konta will now play Spain's Garbine Muguruza, who won the French Open title in 2016, in the third round.

Ninth seed Muguruza, 26, won 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-3 against American teenager Coco Gauff in her second-round match on Thursday.

US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka continued her fantastic form as she embarrassed Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in a brilliant 6-0 6-0 win - just five days after she lost to Naomi Osaka in New York.

Belarusian Azarenka, 31, needed little over an hour to beat 21-year-old Kenin, whose miserable evening ended with a double fault on match point.

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