Johanna Konta denied she had spurned a golden opportunity after losing to Barbora Strycova in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
The British number one deserved huge credit for getting to the last eight at a second consecutive grand slam but, as in the semi-finals of the French Open, when the favourite’s tag was on her, Konta was found wanting.
Strycova plays a similar game to her fellow Czech Marketa Vondrousova, who was Konta’s conqueror in Paris, and there was an all-too familiar feeling as the 28-year-old let an early lead slip away before going down 7-6 (5) 6-1.
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In a tense press conference, Konta admitted she did not play her best but bit back at the suggestion she fluffed her lines at the big moments, saying: “I don’t think you need to pick on me in a harsh way.
“I think I’m very open with you guys. I say how I feel out there. If you don’t want to accept that answer or you don’t agree with it, that’s fine. I still believe in the tennis that I play. I still believe in the way I competed.”
Pressed further by the reporter, Konta added: “You’re being quite disrespectful and you’re patronising me. I’m a professional competitor who did her best today, and that’s all there is to that.”
There was no doubt this was a disappointing performance from Konta, who had played so well to beat top-10 duo Sloane Stephens and Petra Kvitova in the last two rounds, both times from a set down.
Watched by England’s Lionesses following their return from the World Cup, Konta began very well, opening up a 4-1 lead, but from there her forehand misfired badly and she was never able to regain her control.
A final tally of 33 unforced errors rather told its own story, and Konta said: “I think she was playing very well. I couldn’t quite find the level that I needed to make it difficult and challenging for the kind of player she is.
“I went out there, I did my best. My best today just wasn’t good enough. But every decision that I made, every thought process, every opportunity that I gave myself, everything, I have no regrets in doing.”
The similarity to her loss to Vondrousova was unmistakable, right down to a costly drive volley blazed over the baseline, this time to go a double break down in the second set.
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But Konta denied the weight of expectation against a lower-ranked opponent had been a factor, saying: “Both the players that I lost to, I’d lost to previously. They’re very capable.
“Also my opponent equally earned her right to be in the quarter-finals, as well. And in the French Open equally earned her right to be in the semi-finals against me.
“I don’t have any more of a right to winning these matches than my opponents. It’s unfortunate that it’s worked out like that in terms of how it looks on paper with the rankings.
“Player-wise, they’re probably a little similar. But actually I thought I played better there than in this match.”
This was Konta’s fifth grand slam quarter-final, and she will climb again in the rankings to 15th, but a first slam final remains elusive.
“I think I’ve played a great tournament,” she said. “Obviously I would have liked to have won three more matches. But I really feel that, even including today, I can take a lot away from these 10 days.
“The players that I’ve played and beaten, also lost to today, I think overall there’s a lot I can be proud of and take from it.
Lesia Tsurenko - first round
Laura Siegemund - second round
Kiki Bertens - third round
Elise Mertens - fourth round
Johanna Konta - quarter-finals
“I think the best I can do is put myself in the positions, to give myself the opportunity to keep going further and further. It will either happen or it won’t.
“I’m no less of a person or a player if I don’t get past this point. Equally so if I do. I think I play this game with dignity, and I love the sport. I’m grateful for everything that it brings me.”
Thirty-three-year-old Strycova, who is ranked 54, said earlier this week it may be her final Wimbledon, and she now moves through to a first grand slam singles semi-final to take on Serena Williams.