Johanna Konta, the British No 1, needed medical help after suffering heart palpitations during her 6-4 6-4 loss to unseeded Czech Marie Bouzkova in the opening round of the inaugural Top Seed Open presented by Bluegrass Orthopaedics in Lexington, Kentucky on Monday, but she is not too worried about it.
We don’t know why it happens, it’s been under stressful situations, in no stress situations. We just don’t know. It’s been sporadic. It’s not ideal. I am going to have another EKG and see what protocols we can take. It’s probably not going to happen again for another year or something. I’m not too worried, no. Johanna Konta
“My heart rate shoots up for no reason, we didn’t have a long point, I wasn’t gassing in any way in my lungs,” Konta said later.
“It actually goes up and stays there, so it makes me a bit lightheaded, I just needed to see the doctor and the physio.
“It was very high when they came out. I was having all the checks. I am as fit as a fiddle but it can happen. It took a while to settle down but then it did and I was able to concentrate on the tennis.”
Konta says it was not the first time she has experienced the problem.
“We don’t know why it happens, it’s been under stressful situations, in no stress situations. We just don’t know. It’s been sporadic,” Konta added.
“It’s not ideal. I am going to have another EKG and see what protocols we can take. It’s probably not going to happen again for another year or something. I’m not too worried, no.”
After the players withstood a four-hour rain delay, Konta, the No 3 seed here, fended off break points but held serve in the first game, and then halted proceedings two points into the second, hunching over her racket, and appearing to be breathing heavily with her face flushed.
Her blood pressure and pulse were checked and, following a consultation with the doctor, Konta was able to return to the court.
Despite the scare, she continued with the match in the extremely humid conditions, but was unable to find a way to break down the game of her 23-year-old opponent.
Konta managed to win only 39% of her second service points, and failed to convert 6 out of her 7 break point opportunities.
The Top Seed Open is the first WTA Tour event in the United States since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the circuit in March, and this week was Konta’s first tournament since the Monterrey Open in March when she was also beaten by Bouzkova.
“Today, I felt like I served well when I needed to, and I was able to dictate from my serve, and then I just stayed strong in the important moments,” Bouzkova said in her post-match press conference.
The World No 48, who is the lone Czech in this week’s singles field, won a superb 61 percent of points returning Konta’s second serve, and she saved 6 of the 7 break points she faced, helping her sail into the second round.
“I had expectations, I felt like I was practicing well all these months,” said Bouzkova. “On the other hand, I knew that coming into a real match, I shouldn’t have that many expectations, because it’s different.”
Konta maintained parity with Bouzkova up to 3-3 in the opener, but the Czech earned the critical break in the following game, as the Brit forehand miscued into the net.
Bouzkova had no issues holding through to double set point at 5-4, and the 22-year-old closed out the set on her second opportunity after a Konta service return flew long.
A powerful error-forcing forehand gave Konta the initial break in the second but Bouzkova scooped out a drop-shot winner to reach double break point in the following game, and swiftly got back on serve by cracking a forehand return winner crosscourt.
Konta valiantly saved 4 break points at 3-3, and very nearly repeated the trick at 4-4 as she erased Bouzkova’s first two chances in that game with aggressive play.
A long backhand by Konta on the third, however, gave Bouzkova the break and a chance to serve for the match at 5-4.
From 15-30 down, strong serving led Bouzkova to match point, and she converted her chance after a final rally ended with Konta sending her forehand long.
Britain’s other representative in Lexington, Heather Watson, was crushed by Jennifer Brady in straight sets, 6-2 6-1.
The American was dominant from the get-go, breaking Watson at the start and towards the end of the first set, and repeating the process in the second, with a second break at the end to seal the match.
“I didn’t actually feel like I played that bad today,” Watson said. “I was very inconsistent but those courts are so different, and I didn’t have time to get used to them, partly because we had a nightmare trip getting here.”
Watson only arrived on Friday and had to take a COVID test before being allowed to practice on Saturday.
“Flight delays, missing our connections, the fact that there are no flights and we had to spend the night in New York. It just wasn’t ideal.
“I requested a Tuesday start because of what had happened – instead I’m first on today on Monday. So it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Watson now heads to Bradenton in Florida, despite it being a hotspot for coronavirus.
“I’m going to go to Florida to train because the next tournament doesn’t start until the 22nd August, so it’s a long time, so we’re actually going to go to Florida tomorrow and we’re driving.”
According to Watson there are no restrictions entering or leaving Florida by car.
“I’m excited to put in some good work and be ready for [the Western & Southern Open, in New York] and US Open, because I am feeling good,” she added.
“Despite the scoreline today, it was closer than the score suggested. I was hitting the ball decent.”
Meanwhile, No 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka needed almost two-and-a-half hours to edge out Madison Brengle, 6-1 6-7(5) 6-2.
The World No 11 struggled at times with her serve, striking 11 double faults against her 8 aces.
“[Brengle] played really well, she moved really well,” Sabalenka said after the match. “It was tough. I just tried to stay in the game, tried to think clean, and fight to the end, like I usually did.”
Sabalenka could play Coco Gauff in the second round should the American win her opening match.
Magda Linette dropped only 5 games during her 6-2 6-3, win over Lauren Davis, dropping her serve only once at the start of the match before dominating proceedings during her 83-minute encounter.
The Polish 6th seed set up a showdown with Brady in the second round.
Finally, 8th seed One Jabeur from Tunisia downed another American, Caty McNally, 6-2 6-4.