- Marie Bouzkova def. Johanna Konta  6-4 6-4
- Jennifer Brady def. Heather Watson 6-2 6-1
LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY, USA – Lexington was short-lived for the Brits as both Johanna Konta and Heather Watson exit in the opening round.
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Marie Bouzkova def. Johanna Konta  6-4 6-4
Despite announcing that there was a ‘beautiful symmetry’ in facing the last player she faced before lockdown, Johanna Konta found herself on another straight sets loss to the young Czech, Marie Bouzkova.
There were worrying times early on in the match with the first game in the bag, Konta was feeling her neck for her pulse before doubling over and calling the doctor. After checking her over, she opted to continue, and despite losing the first set on a single break, she looked to be settling into the conditions.
Konta looked the brighter in the second set, breaking first but being pegged back immediately, and Bouzkova looked to have the advantage in the bag, before squandering what looked like a gift of four break points, with Konta hanging on to her hold.
However, she wouldn’t be so lucky the second time she was 0-40 down on her serve, with Bouzkova breaking, coming out to serve for the match.
In her Zoom press conference after the match, she explained: “My heart rate shoots up for no reason, we didn’t have a long point [and] it makes me a bit lightheaded, I just had to see the doctor and the physio. It took a while to settle down until about 4-3 in the first set, but then it did settle down and I was able to concentrate on the tennis.”
It has happened four times, and is not related to the episodes during the 2016 US Open and last year’s Fed Cup draw in Bath, but has occurred in a practice session during lockdown.
She continued: “We don’t know why it happens, it’s in stressful situations, in non-stressful situations. It’s been sporadic and we haven’t been able to capture it. I get very lightheaded and I can’t function for the first few seconds.”
“I am worried. It’s not ideal. I am going to have another EKG (electrocardiography) test, and hopefully measure it. But probably now it won’t happen again for another year or something.”
Jennifer Brady def. Heather Watson 6-2 6-1
Having gone all the way through the Battle of the Brits Team Tennis, for some match sharpness, it was a sharp reminder for Heather Watson that being back on the tour was a big step up once more, as she was beaten by Jennifer Brady in straight sets.
Brady never took her foot off the pedal from the get-go, breaking Watson at the start and towards the end of the first set, and repeating the process in the second, with a second break at the end to seal the match.
While Konta took a road trip from Chicago, Watson’s journey to Lexington was less long, but no less laborious.
In a 1-2-1 interview, she told Britwatch Sports: “I put things into perspective. I didn’t actually feel like I played that bad today. I was very inconsistent but those courts are so different, and I didn’t have time to get used to them, partly because we had a nightmare trip getting here.
“We should have arrived on Thursday around 6pm but we ended up not getting here until Friday afternoon. And then when you get here, I can’t practice at the club because we have to do the COVID tests and we have to be approved before we go practice. So my first practice was on Saturday and we couldn’t even book an outdoor court because there were none. So I literally only had Saturday afternoon and Sunday to get used to the courts.
“Flight delays, missing our connections, the fact that there are no flights and we had to spend the night in New York. It just wasn’t ideal. I requested a Tuesday start because of what had happened – instead I’m first on today on Monday. So it just wasn’t meant to be.”
While Konta will look to remain and practice in Lexington, Watson’s plans will see her head to her base in Bradenton, Florida – despite it having been a hotspot for coronavirus cases recently.
She said: “I’m going to go to Florida to train because the next tournament doesn’t start until the 22nd August so it’s a long time so we’re actually going to go to Florida tomorrow and we’re driving. After that trip, everything that could go wrong went wrong so we are going to drive from now on.
“A lot of players here came from Florida and flew. I asked them if there are any more procedures that you have to do if you are coming and going into Florida, and there aren’t any so I’ll be safe there at home. Just go to training everyday and come back, and it’s better for me to be there than in a hotel with lots of other people.
“I’m excited to put in some good work and be ready for [the Western & Southern Open, in New York] and US Open, because I am feeling good. Despite the scoreline today, it was closer than the score suggested. I was hitting the ball decent.”
It was a far cry from the dominant return to competition we saw over the week that Watson was competing in the Battle of the Brits Team Tennis, and the whole experience in this season re-opener has not dented her enthusiasm.
She said: “I still feel so good from there. This hasn’t set me back at all. I’m just know what’s happened these last few days and I have to accept it and I still went out there today and tried my best but it has an effect on how I can play when you can’t prepare.”
The Western & Southern Open in New York will start on 21st August.
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