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Pain in Spain for Konta as title hopes turn to clay

 

By Robert Jones

Johanna Konta's struggles on clay continued as she exited the Madrid Open in the first round after a third-set capitulation against Laura Siegemund.

Konta, the tournament's sixth seed, was 3-0 up in the decider, but the in-form German rattled off five games in a row to steal a 3-6 7-5 6-4 win that finished at 2.17am local time.

The British No1 one has become a real force on the women's tour over the last 18 months but that is yet to translate to the clay as she has won just three games on the surface in her career.

There was a clear chance to make that four against a tough opponent in Siegemund, who won in Stuttgart last week in a strong field that included Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, Konta and Maria Sharapova.

It started well as Konta claimed the first set with two breaks and looked on course for a straight-sets win when leading 5-4 in the second.

But Siegemund upped her game when it mattered, breaking Konta either side of two clutch holds to send it into a decider.

It looked like the world number seven had found a way to win it when she surged into a 3-0 lead but Siegemund again recovered with five successive games, fighting back from 0-40 down in one of them, to claim an impressive win.

√Maria Sharapova set up a grudge match against Eugenie Bouchard as she continued her return from a drugs ban with a first-round win at the Madrid Open on Sunday.

Sharapova's three-set triumph over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni means she will next meet the Canadian, who branded Sharapova a "cheater" prior to her return to competitive action.

Sharapova beat Lucic-Baroni 4-6 6-4 6-0 in her second tournament back after making the semi-finals on her return in Stuttgart last month.

√Milos Raonic was unable to celebrate his return to the ATP Tour with a title as Marin Cilic pipped him to the Istanbul Open crown in Turkey, 7-6 (7/3) 6-3.

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