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Johanna Konta frustrated by latest Birmingham defeat

Johanna Konta frustrated by latest Birmingham defeat
© Reuters
Konta was beaten in straight sets by Jelena Ostapenko in the second round.

A visit from her beloved dachshund Bono helped Johanna Konta recover from the disappointment of another early defeat at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham.

Konta has now failed to make it past the second round on seven visits to Edgbaston Priory, this time going down 6-3 6-4 to former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Ostapenko has had a dreadful season but loves playing on grass and Konta cut a frustrated figure as the Latvian’s power game fired throughout.

But the British number one was all smiles as she walked into her post-match press conference carrying 10-month-old Bono, who was making his tournament debut having been brought up from their home in London by Konta’s boyfriend Jackson Wade.

Asked how she overcomes losses, Konta said: “I just look at my dog. I think anyone who is struggling, just take a look at that face and you probably will do a little better.”

This was undoubtedly a disappointing loss for Konta, though, given her superb run to the French Open semi-finals and the strong start she made here against Anett Kontaveit on Monday.

Konta praised her opponent, though, saying: “I think whenever she plays at her best level, she is very, very hard to play and I think she showed that today.

“It is quite frustrating to be on the court against her because it felt like any mistake I made had a bigger consequence just because I had so few opportunities in the match and so few little windows to try and build any momentum or string points together.

“I still thought I did quite a lot of good things out there, I just didn’t get an opportunity to do too much more.”

Konta will now head to her home town of Eastbourne ahead of next week’s Nature Valley International, where she has a much better record.

Johanna Konta continued her poor run in Birmingham
Johanna Konta continued her poor run in Birmingham (Paul Harding/PA)

“I’d like to think that come the end of next week or the beginning of Wimbledon, I will be that much more comfortable on the grass in the way I’m playing and also the way I’m moving,” she said.

“It’s maybe my fifth day on the grass, my second match on the grass. So I can definitely take a lot more good things than not from this.”

French Open champion Ashleigh Barty had no problem adjusting quickly to the grass and continued her winning run with a 6-3 6-4 victory over a tough opponent in Nottingham finalist Donna Vekic.

Barty, who could become world number one this week if Naomi Osaka loses before the final, said: “I think it was probably as smooth as it could have gone. I felt really good with my feet on the grass.”

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.”

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.

Venus Williams
Venus Williams (pictured) marked her Birmingham debut with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Aliaksandra Sasnovich (Zac Goodwin/PA)

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.”

Kristyna Pliskova defeated sister Karolina
Kristyna Pliskova defeated sister Karolina (Zac Goodwin/PA)

The first meeting of identical twins in WTA Tour history ended with an upset as Kristyna Pliskova overcame a ranking gap of more than 100 places to knock out third seed Karolina 6-2 3-6 7-6 (7).

The sisters are sharing a hotel room, and Kristyna said: “It was not easy for us. We were both a bit stressed about it. I hope it will be fine. I can imagine how she feels. I hope we will go to dinner – or maybe tomorrow.”

Karolina revealed a pre-match arrangement required the winner to buy the loser a present, and they will head to the shops together on Thursday.

“I’m happy for her,” said Karolina. “She’s my sister. It doesn’t matter if she beats me, or if I win, it will continue to be this way. Tennis should not be in the way.”

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