Johanna Konta's Sydney title defence ends in first-round defeat

Johanna Konta completed her first-round match in Sydney without obvious physical problems. Picture: APJohanna Konta completed her first-round match in Sydney without obvious physical problems. Picture: AP
Johanna Konta completed her first-round match in Sydney without obvious physical problems. Picture: AP
Johanna Konta's Sydney International title defence was swiftly ended as she lost to Agnieszka Radwanska in the first round.

A surprising slide in the rankings to 28th meant former world No 2 Radwanska entered this week as an unseeded player, but she showed her quality in a 6-3, 7-5 victory over the British hope.

In a repeat of last year’s final, fourth seed Konta could not take control of the contest against Poland’s former Wimbledon runner-up.

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Consolation for Konta came with the fact she completed the match without obvious physical problems, five days after being forced to retire from her Brisbane International quarter-final with Elina Svitolina due to injury.

She now heads for Melbourne and the Australian Open, where 12 months ago she reached the quarter-finals, while Radwanska continues her grand slam preparation in Sydney and faces American teenager CiCi Bellis next.

Radwanska said: “It was a top-ten level match with some ups and downs, breaks along the way. The conditions weren’t easy, but I’m happy to win in two sets.”

American Venus Williams was the casualty of a heavyweight second-round clash with Germany’s former world No1 Angelique Kerber, starting well but running out of steam in losing 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 shortly before midnight.

Rain had held up play earlier, after wins by Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova, Czech Barbora Strycova and Australian Samantha Stosur.

There were no such problematic weather interruptions at the Hobart International.

Belgian second seed and defending champion Elise Mertens was a 6-4, 6-4 winner against Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia, and Ukrainian fifth seed Lesia Tsurenko also advanced with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva. Both were second-round matches.

Two seeds slumped to first-round defeats. Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu ousted sixth-seeded compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3, 6-2, and Czech eighth seed Katerina Siniakova fell 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 to American Alison Riske.

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On the men’s tour, Australian teenager Alex de Minaur continued his eye-catching start to the year by beating former top-ten player Fernando Verdasco at the Sydney International.

Coming off a week in which he toppled Milos Raonic on his way to the Brisbane semi-finals, De Minaur backed up strongly with a 6-4, 6-2 win over the Spanish left-hander.

The 18-year-old De Minaur is being nurtured in his early days on tour by fellow Australian Lleyton Hewitt, the former US Open and Wimbledon champion who made a big splash as a teenager in events at home before impressing further afield too.

De Minaur said: “I love the way I’m playing at the moment, and I really just want to keep it going.”

Former British No 2 Aljaz Bedene, who reverted nationality to his native Slovenian during the close season, lost 1-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 to French player Benoit Paire.

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