Johanna Konta admits she was second best in Sorana Cirstea defeat

Johanna Konta praised an inspired Sorana Cirstea after suffering a disappointing second-round loss at the US Open.

Konta’s run to the semi-finals of the Western & Southern Open last week had boosted hopes of another strong grand slam showing and she led by a set and a break against 77th-ranked Cirstea only to lose out 2-6 7-6 (5) 6-4.

Ninth seed Konta saved two match points in the ninth game of the decider but Cirstea took her third with an ace after two hours and 49 minutes.

Konta was stretched to the limit by Cirstea
Konta was stretched to the limit by Cirstea (Seth Wenig/AP)

Konta said: “My opponent played better than me. I think that’s really about it.

“I obviously started better. I think my level was a lot higher than hers in the first set. But she’s a great player. She’s had some pretty amazing results also in the past in her career. She’s capable of playing some very good tennis.

“She obviously raised her level. We were battling kind of toe-to-toe really. She just was better in the end.”

Forty unforced errors cost Konta, while her second serve took a pummelling, but Cirstea produced some terrific shots in the third set in particular and played especially well on the big points.

“I think what we’ve seen time and time again in every tournament is that these are the best players in the world, so on any given day they can play incredible tennis,” said Konta.

“Obviously, the higher you are ranked, the more consistently you are able to play that level. However, everybody’s capable to play some really amazing tennis. That’s what she did.

“I did the best that I could. I really fought hard. I really tried to find a way to kind of hopefully get her out of the rhythm of playing that well.”

Sorana Cirstea's forehand proved a big weapon
Sorana Cirstea’s forehand proved a big weapon (Seth Wenig/AP)

Big-hitting Cirstea is the sort of player Konta is often at her best against and she had won both of their previous meetings comfortably.

The scoreline in the first of those during a Fed Cup tie three years ago belied one of the more controversial encounters of recent times, with Konta leaving the court in tears midway through the match following verbal abuse from Romania captain Ilie Nastase.

Konta returned to claim victory but was then accused of gamesmanship by an unhappy Cirstea.

It seemed unlikely there would be drama of any kind as Konta eased through the first set and went an early break up in the second.

The British number one looked to be too strong for her opponent but a lacklustre service game allowed Cirstea back into the match and the Romanian rose to the challenge.

Tough loss for Johanna Konta at the #USOpen

An inspired Sorana Cirstea fought back from a set down to beat Johanna 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in the 2nd round #BackTheBrits 🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/39aN6TxrEH

— LTA (@the_LTA) September 3, 2020

Her weighty forehand began to cause Konta increasing problems, and Cirstea showed admirable resolve to save break points as her opponent pushed for the advantage at both 4-4 and 5-5.

Cirstea seized her chance in the tie-break, clinching her fourth set point with an ace, and her level continued to rise during the third set.

Now it was Konta trying to hang on but, after retrieving an early break, she was unable to take advantage of having Cirstea at 0-40 in the eighth game.

Konta dug deep to save two match points at 3-5 but Cirstea did not allow her any more chances.

The British number one will now turn her attention to clay and the French Open, where she reached the semi-finals last summer.

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