Konta down and out, Halep and Kerber power through

Johanna Konta was a second-round casualty at the Australian Open on Thursday, but top seed Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber advanced.

Ninth seed Konta reached the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park last year and the semi-finals in 2016, but she made an early exit this time around as she was beaten by world No 123 Bernarda Pera.

Conditions were once again tough, but Pera handled them better as she won 6-4, 7-5 in one hour and 41 minutes.

Croatian-born American, playing in her first Grand Slam, broke to love in the ninth game and went on to serve out the set.

There were five breaks of serve in total in the second set, but Pera claimed the decisive one in the 11th game.

“I think she played very inspired and I didn’t quite do as much as I wanted. I think in the points I did okay, and I think I stayed quite strong. But I don’t think I did enough with my service games, and I don’t think I did enough with my returns.

“It’s a bit frustrating, but I’m still taking good stuff from this. I don’t feel, by any means, it’s a massive catastrophe. I play every event to be there until the end, so I definitely don’t want to be going home this early.”

World No 1 Halep brushed aside Eugenie Bouchard 6-2, 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena.

The Romanian broke Bouchard in the first game of the match only for the Canadian to hit back immediately, but Halep claimed another three breaks to easily win the first set.

It was a similar story in the second set with Halep securing three breaks to one.

Birthday girl Kerber saw off Donna Vekic 6-4, 6-1 in an hour and 10 minutes to set up a third-round clash against another former Australian Open champion in Maria Sharapova.

“You know, it’s another tough match here,” Kerber, who celebrated her 30th birthday on Thursday. “We both played in the past a lot of good matches.”

Also into the next round are sixth seed Karolina Pliskova, eighth seed Caroline Garcia and 26th seed Agnieszka Radwanska