September 18, 2020
Jo Konta couldn’t follow up her exciting adventures at Flushing Meadows with a headline-grabbing victory in Rome.
Instead she came up against an in-form Garbine Muguruza and never really got going.
The Foro Italico is a spectacular, gladiatorial setting in the fierce Italian sunshine.
The Spanish warrior was more aggressive. She is of course a former Wimbledon champion and she has also won the French Open.
But Konta has gone deep on Grand Slam clay in the past and reached a semi-final.
So there was no reason for her to feel disadvantaged on a similar surface in the Italian capital.
Yet it was Muguruza who prevailed in Rome with a simple 6-4, 6-1 victory over the talented British star.
There was brief hope for Konta when she saved three successive break points at 2-3 in the first.
That seemed to fire Jo up for a while and you wondered whether the momentum was going to shift.
But Muguruza dug in and broke decisively in the last game of the opening set.
From that point Konta never looked comfortable again. She snatched at some shots and seemed off balance for others.
In the end Jo made 22 unforced errors, to ninth seed Muguruza’s 13.
No matter, Konta has time to find her feet on clay before the French Open starts.
She has split from her coach Thomas Hogstedt, almost before that experimental partnership had time to bear fruit.
But we know that when Konta really clicks, she is capable of beating anyone on her day. It just takes the right winning mentality.
And we will of course look forward to Konta’s title bid at Wimbledon 2021.
Meanwhile Novak Djokovic survived quite a scare against his Serb compatriot Filip Krajinovic.
Novak eventually battled through 7-6 (9-7), 6-3. But he admitted later it had been very hard work.
Djokovic actually made more unforced errors than his opponent – 33 against 29 . Even so, he raised his game when it mattered.
Novak was 1-4 down in the opening breaker and staring down the barrel.
But typically Djokovic found some of his best tennis to gain the upper hand against his close friend.
Novak said: ‘The first set was a great battle, one of the longest I’ve ever played (one hour and twenty-eight minutes).
‘We went toe to toe. But winning that first set allowed me to relax a little bit. I’m pleased with the win.’
We can’t wait to see Konta, Djokovic and you the fans at Wimbledon 2021!