By Ros Satar
- Venus Williams  def. Johanna Konta  5-7 6-1 6-2
- Konta looks to slip out of the Top 20 when the new rankings comes out
- Few points to defend in the clay court season, so a chance to make up ground
MIAMI, USA – British No. 1 Johanna Konta bowed out of her title defence at the hands of the resurgent Venus Williams, and faces a drop in the rankings ahead of the clay court season.
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Defending champion Johanna Konta’s Miami Open title defence ended at the hands of the seemingly unstoppable Venus Williams. Even after an epic three-setter just shy of three hours the day before, Williams cranked up the pressure leaving Konta looking at a rankings slide after an indifferent start to the year.
The frst set, it looked as though the previous match had taken its toll on the American as Konta struck with an immediate break and looked to be the one exerting the pressure, with a further four break points before Williams managed to scrape herself onto the board.
As the set wore on, Williams seemed to warm to the task as she broke back on a day where Konta’s supreme serving of the previous two rounds looked to be a little under-par. Konta fended off a set point and dug deep to get the crucial break to serve out for the first set.
There the wheels started to come off as the momentum was with Williams at the start of the second set, umping out swiftly to a 3-1 lead, and quickly escalated to a match-levelling set. With the heat rule in effect, Konta had a medical time-out for a lower back issue having twisted and pulled up a little during the second set.
The third set started much like the second with an immediate break by Williams, and although Konta seemed to revive to break back to level at 2-2, Williams turned the screw with two more straight breaks before taking the match on her second match point.
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If Konta is one thing, she is consistent and on point in her message that tennis is not just about winning matches all the time. She bit back at a suggestion last year that she had lost to ‘nobodies’ and pointed out that she is not entitled to win every match she plays just on ranking.
It showed a real bit of fire in the belly, and resulted in a run to the semi-final of Wimbledon, so there must be something in it!
She also has a solid belief in how she is approaching this season, as she shared with us after her opening loss at Indian Wells
So in all honesty perhaps the pressure will be off in a period of the tour where she has little to defend.
The demon clay? Not necessarily so.
While her results on the main tour on clay have not looked great, four of her lower tier titles have come on the dirt, so it is not as though she cannot play on the stuff. In fact she will be heading to Charleston but with the Fed Cup tie being held in Japan, she won’t be playing on the speedy indoor clay of Stuttgart and will be back for the main events in Madrid, Rome and of course Roland Garros.
Her jaunt to Charleston will be the first since 2011 where she went out in the first round of qualification. She has never progressed past the first round in Madrid either, where the altitude tends to make the ball fly. She has had a little more luck in the more claggier clay of Rome and picked up a win last year losing to Williams in her second match.
Roland Garros has proved a tough nut to crack though, with three main draw attempts ending in the first round. It might not be her best surface but there are points to gain here especially if she can make some ground on her main draw debut on the grey-green nonsense of Charleston. At this stage, we care not about the colour, but the points.
With a full grass court schedule again, the clay offers the top Brit a chance to creep back up the rankings, and more importantly to continue to focus on the aspects of her game she is working hard to improve, and her continuing self-belief that it will come.
Either way – if she continues to have that belief, then honestly who are we not to believe in it too?
The Volvo Car Open in Charleston takes place between 2-8 April
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