By Ros Satar, in Cincinnati

  • Aryna Sabalenka def. Johanna Konta 4-6 6-3 6-4
  • Konta playing doubles with Jelena Ostapenko
  • Seeking match-fitness ahead of US Open
CINCINNATI, USA – Johanna Konta was edged out in the opening round of the Western & Southern Open but both coach and player see an upturn in her fortunes.

 

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Aryna Sabalenka def. Johanna Konta 4-6 6-3 6-4

After a strong start, British No. 1 Johanna Konta was edged out in the first round of the Western & Southern Open by Eastbourne finalist Aryna Sabalenka. The Belarusian won over a lot of fans in the grass court summer with her knack of coming back against all odds. In fact for the eight time this year she came back from a set down, with Konta relinquishing a lead of a set and a break up.

Aryna Sabalenka in the second round of the Nature Valley International, WTA Eastbourne 2018

Aryna Sabalenka in the second round of the Nature Valley International, WTA Eastbourne 2018 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

The first set was vintage Konta who admittedly did not have things all her own way, deflecting break points on her own serve before getting the break. Sabalenka pegged her straight back before Konta put pedal to the metal again.

The Brit had to save another three break points on her own serve before clinching the first set. She started the more determined with an early break, but by her own admission she dipped in focus, which cost her the second set, and ultimately the match as she struggled to find a way past the Belarusian.

She said, after her match: “I think I started off really strong and I think we both played quite a good level in that first set. It was quite a high quality first set. I think in the second set both of us dropped our level a bit in different parts. I definitely felt I really dropped off a bit.

“I didn’t quite get back to the place that I wanted to be. But I think overall, I still competed well to the very end. a lot of good things to take from it. Obviously, I’d like to not drop off (laughs) but I think overall I feel like I’m playing better and better, each match that I’m playing.”

Konta is scheduled for New Haven, but before that she gets to spend a little more time in Cincinnati after pairing up for the doubles with Jelena Ostapenko.

“I don’t think I’ve played with her before. I’ve been keen to play doubles as much as I can, obviously to just keep playing those matches. So, we were able to sign up together and get in so looking forward to it.”

 

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‘Heading in the right direction – however quick or slow it goes’

Johanna Konta in the first round of the Western & Southern Open, WTA Cincinnati 2018

Johanna Konta of Great Britain in action during the first round at the 2018 Western & Southern Open WTA Premier 5 tennis tournament

Her rapid rise, then almost as sudden fall has of course been the subject of much scrutiny, none more so than during Wimbledon. Reaching the final for the second time in Nottingham was her best sustained performance of the year, and her wins in San Jose and Montreal have gone a long way to giving Konta back some of the confidence that was missing in the early part of the year.

“I’ve been playing some great players and very on-form players, past champions, past World No. 1s, past-everything (laughs) so I can only be grateful for the matches that I’ve had, the quality that I’m playing.

“I think that’s only going to give good things to me and do good things for my level and where I am, so I think overall I’m happy that I’ve got New Haven and US Open but also can’t forget I’ve got the swing in Asia as well.

“There’s still a lot of tennis to be played, I definitely feel I’m heading in the right direction – however quick or slow it goes.”

Konta and Ostapenko play Raquel Atawo and Anna-Lena Groenefeld on Tuesday.

 

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