Johanna Konta, Britain’s most successful women’s player of her generation, was upset in straight sets by China’s Saisai Zheng at Nottingham’s Aegon Open.
The British #1 was involved in a Centre Court tussle that lasted just over two hours on a day that the sponsors called ‘tennis passion and fashion’.
But the 25-year-old lacked the passion that her opponent showed, slipping out of her first grass tournament of the season 6-4 7-5.
Yet the Eastbourne-based Australian-born ace was obviously suffering from injury, having problems with her right thigh and back that doesn’t bode well for the rest of her Wimbledon warm-up tournaments – Birmingham’s Aegon Classic next week followed by Devonshire Park’s Aegon International.
Zheng had lost both of her previous two matches to the #2 seed, including at the Australian Open that propelled Konta towards the top 20 with a run to the semi-final.
Yet it was third time luck for Zheng, who bounced back from a shaky start to lose her initial service game and trail 2-0.
Konta was then troubled by the athleticism from Zheng, who reeled off six of the next eight games to seal the opening set in 45 minutes and upset the largely patriotic crowd.
Konta, the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Bristol’s Jo Durie in 1983, made a roaring start to the second set to lead 4-2 courtesy of one break of serve.
But Zheng increased the pressure by commanding the net and broke back before served for the match in a topsy-turvy final game, saving a trio of break points to sink Konta.
And defeated Konta, the world #18 who has climbed 30 places this season, kick-started her incredible run at Eastbourne’s pre-Wimbledon event but may well be sidelined from competing at her adopted home’s tournament.