Re­silient Konta takes the pos­i­tives de­spite in­fu­ri­at­ing loss

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - CRICKET -

AN­GRY Jo­hanna Konta re­fused to shake hands with um­pire Paula Vieira Souza af­ter a nar­row loss to Ash­leigh Barty in the fi­nal of the Na­ture Val­ley Open in Not­ting­ham.

The Bri­tish No 1 had bat­tled back from 4-1 down in the de­cider and had Barty un­der pres­sure on her serve when a shot from the Aus­tralian ap­peared to land long, but nei­ther the line judge nor Souza called it out.

Konta con­fronted Souza, say­ing: “It’s an ab­so­lute joke. You’re mak­ing de­ci­sions that af­fect our lives. Do you fully un­der­stand that?”

She won only one more point and af­ter a fi­nal pass­ing shot from Barty clinched a 6-3 3-6 6-4 vic­tory, Konta walked straight past Souza and off the court.

Sev­eral min­utes passed be­fore she re­turned for the tro­phy cer­e­mony, al­though she would not say whether she was com­plain­ing about what had hap­pened.

It is not the first time the 27-year-old has re­fused to shake an um­pire’s hand, and she said: “At 4-4 in the third set, that’s quite an im­por­tant time of any match. It’s a dif­fi­cult po­si­tion to be in.

“I def­i­nitely burned through quite a bit of en­ergy at that mo­ment in time. But, ex­cept for one loose shot (in the last game), I don’t think I did too much wrong. Ob­vi­ously I’m a lit­tle bit sad I could not come through with the win to­day but I’m also tak­ing a lot of pos­i­tives from this week in gen­eral.”

Konta was play­ing in a fi­nal for the first time since do­ing so here 12 months ago, when she lost to Donna Ve­kic. It has been a dif­fi­cult sea­son for a player who was ranked fourth af­ter reach­ing the semi-fi­nals of Wim­ble­don last sum­mer and is now down at 22.

She showed im­pres­sive re­silience here, though, with­stand­ing strong pres­sure to take the sec­ond set and then fight­ing back in the de­cider against the top seed and a player re­garded as one of the best grass­court ex­po­nents.

Konta will hope to build on the pos­i­tive things in her game in a very tough open­ing match at the Na­ture Val­ley Clas­sic in Birm­ing­ham to­mor­row against de­fend­ing cham­pion Pe­tra Kvi­tova.

Konta’s de­feat made it a dou­ble Bri­tish dis­ap­point­ment against Aus­tralia af­ter Dan Evans lost 7-6 (7/4) 7-5 to 19-year-old Alex De Minaur in the men’s fi­nal ear­lier.

The 28-year-old had hoped to win the first ti­tle of his come­back from a 12-month drugs ban but was nev­er­the­less happy with his week’s work. He now heads to Queen’s Club

“It was a good level,” said Evans. “I had my chances. It’s been a great week lead­ing up to the big­ger tour­na­ment. He was re­lent­less. That match there has pretty much told me I’m there or there­abouts.”

De­spite his ex­cel­lent form, Evans said he is not ex­pect­ing to be given a Wim­ble­don wild card and would be pre­pared to miss the chance to play at the All Eng­land Club if he does well at Queen’s.

Evans, who even sug­gested he could play two matches in a day to en­able him to com­pete in both com­pe­ti­tions, said: “My year doesn’t re­volve around just try­ing to play Wim­ble­don. But it wouldn’t be my pref­er­ence to miss the best slam there is.”

No­vak Djokovic, mean­while, is rel­ish­ing the chance to re­new his ri­valry with Andy Murray.

Murray is mak­ing his lon­gawaited re­turn at the Fever-Tree Cham­pi­onships at Queen’s Club this week af­ter 11 months out with a hip in­jury. The Scot had sev­eral aborted come­backs, hav­ing limped out of Wim­ble­don last July be­fore go­ing un­der the knife in Jan­uary.

The pair, born just a week apart in 1987, have been long­time ad­ver­saries on court and have bat­tled at the top of the men’s game for much of the last decade, com­pet­ing in 19 fi­nals, in­clud­ing seven at grand slams.

Djokovic has also suf­fered from in­jury prob­lems over the last 18 months, which saw him un­dergo el­bow surgery.

“I wish him all the best, I re­ally do, ten­nis misses him, he is a great cham­pion, a great guy, re­ally ded­i­cated, hard work­ing, great ethics,” said Djokovic.

“I re­ally hope to see him back play­ing at that level he has played over the last cou­ple of years.

“I have known him since we were 11 or 12 years old, I have al­ways had a won­der­ful re­la­tion­ship with Andy, never ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing neg­a­tive – he de­serves the chance to come back.”

PIC­TURE:MIKE EGER­TON/PA

FRUS­TRA­TION: Jo­hanna Konta will take en­cour­age­ment from her week at Not­ting­ham de­spite miss­ing out in the fi­nal.

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