Ashleigh Barty won her first match as a grand slam champion but Johanna Konta again failed to make the quarter-finals at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham.
Konta’s brilliant form at the French Open elevated hopes for the grass, and the British number one looked very sharp in her opening match against Anett Kontaveit on Monday.
But she could not find the same form taking on former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, losing 6-3 6-4. Konta has never made it beyond the second round here in seven attempts.
Ostapenko has had a dreadful season, winning two matches in a week just once prior to arriving here, but the Latvian loves grass and has made the quarter-finals and semi-finals at Wimbledon the last two years.
Konta had four break points on the Ostapenko serve in the opening game but was unable to take any of them and that set the tone for the match.
Ostapenko’s hit-and-miss power game was working and, after breaking for 2-0, she did not allow Konta a look at her serve throughout the first set, with the British player not helping herself with some poor returning.
Konta recovered from a break down to make it 3-3 in the second set only to drop serve again straight away, and Ostapenko took full advantage.
It was a much happier day for French Open champion Barty, who found her feet quickly on the grass in a 6-3 6-4 victory over Donna Vekic.
Vekic was distraught after losing in the final in Nottingham on Sunday and this was a tough draw for both of them. The Croatian battled back from 2-5 to 4-5 in the second set but Barty served it out at the second time of asking.
Barty, who could become world number one this week if Naomi Osaka loses before the final, was very happy with her performance, saying: “I think it was probably as smooth as it could have gone. I felt really good with my feet on the grass.
“There are still aspects that I want to clean up and do a little bit better but overall really happy with today. It was kind of the perfect match for me. Obviously, Donna knows her way around a grass court pretty well, so I needed to be ready and be sharp.”
Barty insisted that, far from adding pressure, her new status has actually removed it.
“For me, nothing changes,” she said. “It was an incredible fortnight of tennis that we had without a doubt and some of the best memories of my career will come from those two weeks.
“But I’m still the same person. I’m still the same Ash Barty and I try and prepare the same way. I feel like, if anything, it’s taken the pressure off. I can just go out and enjoy it. It is an opportunity to try and be better and really go out there and just have fun.”
Venus Williams marked her debut in Birmingham with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Williams almost never plays a warm-up event before Wimbledon – a 2011 appearance in Eastbourne was the only previous time in 20 years – so it was a surprise when she took a wild card into the tournament last week.
But the decision looks to have been a good one, and the 39-year-old said: “This is very new for me and very exciting. And it’s not often I get to play in a new city in front of a new crowd, so this is pretty exhilarating actually.”
Williams played doubles with British player Harriet Dart on Monday and was impressed with the 22-year-old, who was among the recipients of Wednesday’s Wimbledon wild cards.
“We had a blast,” said Williams. “She is clearly very passionate about the game and is putting the work in. With Serena’s permission maybe we will play together again.”News Now - Sport News