Australian Open 2018: Johanna Konta blames ‘match health’ for shock second-round exit to world No 123
To the names of Su-Wei Hsieh and Aleksandra Krunic we are able to add that of Bernarda Pera. The 23-year-old Croatian-born American knocked Britain’s Johanna Konta out of the Australian Open right here on Thursday, her 6-Four, 7-5 second-round victory finishing an unlikely hat-trick of shock defeats for the world 10.
Despite her superb run to the semi-finals at Wimbledon final summer season, Konta has now misplaced to unsung opponents in three of her final 4 Grand Slam tournaments. Following her first-round defeats to Hsieh (world No 109) and Krunic (world No 78) ultimately 12 months’s French and US Opens respectively, Konta was crushed right here by an opponent who had by no means performed a singles match at a Grand Slam match earlier than this week.
Pera, the world No 123, was not even within the draw after shedding within the closing spherical of qualifying however was given her likelihood as a “lucky loser” following an harm withdrawal. Striking the ball with spectacular energy and preserving her nerve on the greatest moments, the left-hander took full benefit of what Konta admitted was a below-par show.
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The 26-year-old Briton, who had reached the semi-finals and quarter-finals in her final two appearances right here, served poorly by her personal excessive requirements, failed to strike the ball along with her customary aggression and sometimes appeared shocked by the load and pace of Pera’s floor strokes.
Konta, who could drop a spot or two within the world rankings after the match, paid a worth for her lack of competitors over latest months. Since August she has received two matches in a row solely as soon as, in Brisbane a fortnight in the past, when she had to retire from her quarter-final due to a hip harm. She misplaced her final 5 matches of 2017 and due to a foot downside had not performed for three months when she started her 2018 marketing campaign.
“I think when you have that kind of match fitness, you are able to come through those difficulties that you find in every match, every day that you play,” Konta mentioned afterwards.
“I just didn’t play great. I think it’s a part of tennis. It’s a part of everyone’s career. There are always going to be days like this.”
Konta mentioned there was “no substitute” for the arrogance to be derived from successful matches. “You obviously look to keep improving your game and your physicality through training, but being match-fit and having that feel in points and in the way matches flow, and belief in what you do in certain points, that comes with the volume of matches and coming through tough matches.”
The Briton’s serve is often one in every of her greatest strengths however on this event it lacked tempo and penetration. Pera had 17 break factors whereas Konta had solely two.
“My serve definitely let me down a little bit,” Konta admitted. “When I’m not serving the way I want to, I don’t think I’m putting as much pressure on [my opponent] in their service games.”
Pera, in distinction, performed with all the liberty you may anticipate of a participant who had nothing to lose. “I didn’t put much pressure on myself, so I think that helped,” she mentioned afterwards. “I was able to stay calm.”
On the most popular day of the match thus far the temperature was already 33C by the point the gamers walked on to Court 2 for the 11am begin.
Konta, who insisted afterwards that the new and windy situations had not been an element, saved one break level within the opening recreation, through which she served two double faults, and misplaced the primary set after being damaged at Four-Four.
She made a greater begin to the second set, breaking serve on the first try thanks to two successive double faults by Pera, however was instantly pegged again. Having gone Zero-40 down when she served at 2-Zero, Konta saved two break factors however was punished for a poor drop shot on the third.
At 2-2 Konta saved one other break level, however at Three-Three she dropped serve once more. Having saved the primary 4 break factors of the sport with unreturned serves she missed a backhand on the fifth. At Three-5, nonetheless, Konta held serve after saving three match factors after which broke when Pera served for the match.
Pera admitted afterwards: “At 5-3 I was like: ‘Oh my God, I might actually win this match’. Then I started to get a little more nervous.”
It appeared that Pera could be tightening up, however at 5-5 she broke serve for the fourth and final time. Konta made a horrible mess of a smash to go Zero-40 down and three factors later missed the ball utterly when she slipped and fell on her bottom in making an attempt to get to Pera’s return of serve.
When Pera served for the match for a second time the American missed a backhand on her fourth match level, however was handed victory on the fifth as Konta as soon as once more missed what ought to have been a routine overhead. It had been that form of day.
“She played very inspired throughout and I think I didn’t do enough at the beginning when I had little windows to put my stamp on the match,” Konta mentioned. “I felt I didn’t quite get enough into the match to be able to get going a little bit.”
She added: “I didn’t do sufficient with my service video games or with my returns. I do not assume I tailored effectively sufficient.
“It’s a bit frustrating, but I think I’m still taking good stuff from this. I don’t feel, by any means, that it’s a massive catastrophe. It’s not that I had a bad day. There are things that I did well today.”
Konta mentioned she had not under-estimated Pera, who she knew from their days enjoying on the similar Challenger tournaments. “I was prepared for her to be playing loose and playing freely,” Konta mentioned.
“She hits very clean and quite big off both sides. I think she uses her leftiness quite well. Credit to her. She also stayed calm and was very methodical in getting her end of the job done.”
Konta agreed that a number of the outcomes right here this week – together with her personal – confirmed her view that the ladies’s recreation has nice energy in depth for the time being.
“Players rarely play the reputation any more,” she mentioned. “It’s anyone’s game on any day. The rankings reflect a player’s consistency and how well they are able to come in week in, week out, and play at that level, but they don’t guarantee that level every single day. There are a lot of things at play. Players come out to play inspired, as they should.”
Although Konta mentioned she had felt comfy right here she is trying ahead to getting extra matches underneath her belt. She will play subsequent within the Fed Cup in Estonia after which within the Qatar Open in Doha.
“I’m actually looking forward to just continuing to play,” she mentioned. “I didn’t play very much in the last six months of last year, so I think I’m where I’m meant to be right now in my level. I feel it is getting better with each match that I’m playing. I’m figuring things out and enjoying doing it.”