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Konta proud in defeat but takes aim at scheduling

 

Heading home: Johanna Konta during her defeat in the semi-finals of the French Open
Heading home: Johanna Konta during her defeat in the semi-finals of the French Open

By Robert Jones

Johanna Konta's only regrets were about the scheduling as she saw her hopes of a first Grand Slam title ended by a loss to Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova in the French Open semi-finals.

This appeared a golden chance for Konta to become the first British woman to win a Slam singles crown since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977, but she let winning positions in both sets slip away and went down 7-5 7-6 (2).

In the end it was 19-year-old Vondrousova who showed the greater composure, coming back from 5-3 down in both sets to set up a final clash with Ashleigh Barty.

The match had originally been scheduled for Thursday but a wash-out of Wednesday's quarter-finals and more rain forecast for yesterday gave organisers a major headache.

Their solution was to play the two women's semi-finals at 11am away from the main Philippe Chatrier court, which hosted the men's last-four matches as scheduled.

Konta and Vondrousova were sent out to Roland Garros' third stadium, the new 5,000-capacity Simonne Mathieu, but it was never more than a third full.

Konta said she was surprised when she saw the schedule and, asked if she felt like she was playing in a Slam semi-final, the 26th seed added: "In terms of the surrounding and the occasion, probably not."

Steve Simon, the CEO and chairman of the WTA, put out a statement on Thursday describing the schedule as "unfair and inappropriate", while former World No.1 Amelie Mauresmo branded it a disgrace.

Konta added: "I think more than anything, what is tiring and what is really unfortunate is that female athletes have to sit in different positions and have to justify their scheduling or their involvement in an event or their salary or their opportunities.

"And I think to give time to that is even more of a sad situation than what we found ourselves in today in terms of the scheduling.

"I don't want to sit here and justify where I'm scheduled. That's not my job. My job is to come here and entertain people, and I feel I did that. And I feel I gave people who paid for tickets every opportunity to enjoy their French Open experience.

"And if the organisers do not feel that is something that can be promoted and celebrated, then I think it's the organisers you need to have a conversation with, not me."

On the court, Konta found herself in the unexpected situation of being the most experienced of the four semi-finalists.

This was her third time in the last four at a Major after losses at the Australian Open in 2016 and Wimbledon two years ago, and, although she did not admit as much, this one will surely sting more.

It was Vondrousova who made a nervous start, with Konta winning the first 10 points.

Vondrousova settled but Konta should still have won the first set. She had three set points at 5-3, missing a wild drive volley on the first, only for her opponent to reel off four games in a row.

The second set was virtually a repeat, with Konta again serving for it at 5-3 and double-faulting on break point. She at least forced a tie-break this time but it was Vondrousova who played the smarter.

Konta, though, insisted she had no regrets about the way she had played the match.

Konta, who will climb to 18th in the rankings, said: "I had a great tournament. I had a lot of really amazing experiences.

"There is nothing for me to be disappointed in or upset about. I lost a match, but I also won five. I can only take the good things from that. I lost the match, but I did the best that I could and I'm proud of that effort.

"So I can only look forward to playing at Wimbledon and the tournaments before that."

Given her unexpected success on clay, Konta should feel confident going onto her more favoured grass. She sees no reason why she cannot win a Slam.

She said: "I'm not at all disappointed in the player that I am or things that I have achieved.

"But, equally, I'm just as hungry and just as motivated to keep going forward and to one day be in a position to be winning a Major."

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