Johanna Konta has claimed that she is happy with her recent performances on clay, despite winning just two matches on the surface this season and yesterday losing in the first round of the French Open for a third successive season.
Given the absence of recent champions Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, as well as a relatively kind draw in Paris, Konta had been tipped by many as a potential champion at Roland-Garros this year, and was considered part of the “15 players” Simona Halap suggested could win in Paris.
And so on Tuesday morning Konta was expected to make light work of the unseeded Su-Wei Hsieh in the opening round on Court Philippe Chatrier, a player ranked more than 100 players below the British number one in the WTA rankings.
But having won the first set 6-1 in little over 20-minutes, Konta collapsed to a 1-6 7-6 (7/2) 6-4 defeat, handing the Taiwanese player her first ever victory over a top-ten ranked player.
At the age of 26 and ranked eighth in the world, Konta is still waiting on her first win at the French Open.
She conceded after the match that she had wanted to remain in the tournament for longer, but claimed that she did not judge herself on results alone and was proud of the adjustments she has made to her game.
“My expectations are never results-orientated,” she said in a press conference following her defeat. “Whether I have lost in the first round or third round or the quarter-finals, I do my best not to judge myself on that aspect.
“Obviously I like to be involved in a tournament for as long as possible and I would have liked to have been involved here longer. But in terms of the match that I played and the improvements that I feel I have made, I do feel like I am a better player at the end of this last few weeks on the surface than I was at the beginning. And that is the most I can ask of myself: to keep improving.”
Great Britain's French Open hopefuls
Great Britain's French Open hopefuls
1/7 Great Britain's French Open hopefuls
We run through the stars flying the flag for Great Britain at Roland-Garros this year.
2/7 Andy Murray
The World No 1 and a finalist at Roland-Garros last year, but Murray has struggled for form this season and has already lost seven matches. Would do well to get to the second week.
3/7 Kyle Edmund
The 22-year-old can will hope to do well in Paris. He has had an impressive season and ran both Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro impressively close in recent clay-court tournaments.
4/7 Aljaz Bedene
The British number three heads into the French Open on a superb run of form having reached the final of the Hungarian Open in April. Came very close to knocking Milos Raonic out of the Istanbul Open recently, and also performed well in a Round of 32 defeat to Novak Djokovic in Rome.
5/7 Daniel Evans
Resuscitated his career last season and has reached at least the third round in his last three Slams, but has an aversion to playing on clay. Has only ever entered the French Open once before, when he lost in the first round of qualifying in 2014.
6/7 Johanna Konta
Given Murray’s struggles with form and fitness, Konta is perhaps Great Britain’s best hope of success in Paris. The World No 8 won the biggest tournament of her career at this year’s Miami Open and, on her day, she really can beat anybody.
7/7 Heather Watson (qualifying)
Currently playing in qualifying. The British number two recovered from losing the first set in her first round match against World No 172 Anastasiya Komardina and will play the Czech Republic’s Tereza Smitková for a place in the next round.
Konta’s improvements on clay were clear for all to see in a rapid-fire first-set. Playing in front of a disappointingly small crowd, Konta broke Hsieh in her first service game and again in her third, finishing points at a remarkable speed to take the first set 6-1 in little over 20-minutes.
Those fans who had decided on an early lunch before making their way to Court Philippe Chatrier found they had missed an entire set by the time they arrived, with the British number one in complete control.
But she faltered in the second and third sets, struggling with Hsieh’s beguiling mixture of slice and perfectly positioned dropped shots and making a costly 33 unforced errors. She began to look increasingly frustrated by her performance, losing a second-set tiebreak before twice being broken in the third.
“I don’t think [the frustration] necessarily had anything to do with the surface,” Konta explained afterwards. “But I think I definitely would have liked to have done better also, with a little bit of my frustration.
“I felt I got a little bit frustrated in that third set, and I felt I could have done better with just having a bit more perspective. I think she played well and consistently well, especially those last two sets. So I think, moving forward and for the next time, I definitely want to do that a bit better.”
Su-Wei Hsieh was meanwhile left to reflect on her finest ever performance and will now play Taylor Townsend of the United States hoping to qualify for the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career.
“I was thinking, 'Oh my God I am playing so bad,’” she replied when asked how she felt after losing the first set 6-1 in 23-minutes.
“I was missing a lot of balls and of course my mental went down a little bit, so I say second set we start again, I don't think too much about the first set.
“It's not really easy to play the seed in the first round: They play all the big tournaments, they are very positive, their mental is very tough, their body is big and strong," she added. “So for me ... I just tried to be positive.”Reuse content