Johanna Konta’s clay-court title quest goes on after Rome final loss

Johanna Konta, left, and tournament winner Karolina Pliskova. Pictuer: Clive Brunskill/GettyJohanna Konta, left, and tournament winner Karolina Pliskova. Pictuer: Clive Brunskill/Getty
Johanna Konta, left, and tournament winner Karolina Pliskova. Pictuer: Clive Brunskill/Getty
Johanna Konta is still searching for the first clay-court title of her career after a straight-sets defeat by Karolina Pliskova in the final of the Italian Open in Rome.

The British No 1 admitted she was never given a look-in by her Czech opponent as she fell to a 6-3 6-4 defeat only two weeks after also finishing runner-up in Morocco.

Konta told “I just thought she (Pliskova) didn’t really have a let-down in the whole match.

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“She played very consistently. I found it quite hard to get a footing in the match, which is credit to her. She plays with big shots, quite flat, and big serves. It can feel sometimes like you are fighting an uphill battle, and that was the case today.”

Nevertheless Konta, who turned 28 on Friday, will take plenty of positives from her unexpectedly strong clay court season ahead of this month’s French Open, in which she is yet to win a main draw match in four attempts.

Konta’s semi-final victory over Kiki Bertens had marked the Briton’s first victory over a player ranked in the top five since beating Simona Halep at Wimbledon in 2017.

But her hopes of repeating the feat against Pliskova eroded after the Czech broke in the second game of the first set and proceeded to make just five unforced errors to move ahead in the match.

Konta’s response was concerted as the second set went with serve before she had the opportunity to establish a 4-3 lead.

However, despite saving three break points, she was unable to fend off Pliskova a fourth time as the Czech made what proved to be a decisive move. She made it 5-3 after Konta had fought her way back to deuce and although the Briton held in the penultimate game, Pliskova converted her third championship point to take the title and secure the number two spot in the new rankings .

In the men’s final, Rafael Nadal claimed his ninth Italian Open title when he beat Novak Djokovic in three sets. The defending champion triumphed 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 in two hours and 25 minutes.

It was the 54th meeting between world No 2 two Nadal and No 1 Djokovic, and the first in which either player had won a set to love.

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Nadal’s first title of the year was a record 34th ATP Masters 1000 crown as the Spaniard moved one clear of Djokovic on that score. The Serb leads the head-to-head 28 wins to 26.

Nadal had not dropped a set all week, while Djokovic had come through tough three-setters in each of the previous two rounds.

Nadal broke three times in the opening set and the first “bagel” of their rivalry was registered. Djokovic took the second set via a break in the 10th game, only to then be broken in the opening game of the decider, and Nadal remained firmly in control thereafter.