Johanna Konta tumbled to a shock defeat in the Nature Valley tournament this morning, losing in straight sets to little-known Tunisian Ons Jabeur.
In a match delayed by early drizzle - and listed for Court One rather than the larger and noisily partisan Centre Court - Konta was blown away by the ferocious accuracy of her lower-ranked opponent, suffering two breaks of serve in each set and bowing out 6-3 6-2.
Konta said, “I just played an opponent who played very well today. I didn’t feel like I actually did too much wrong. There is very few things I could have tried differently or more of, but to be honest, I actually thought I did quite well in the amount of questions I asked my opponent today, and she just was answering them every time.
“She was able to get back balls from different positions of the court and hit winners from different positions of the court.
Eastbourne’s favourite tennis girl began soundly enough, breaking Jabeur in the fifth game to lead 3-2. But that was as good as it got. The Tunisian no 1 - whose only notable victory of 2019 so far was in Dubai, over Donna Vekic - instantly broke back and went on to dominate the rest of the first set.
Konta, trying desperately to find chinks in the Tunisian’s armour, looked a shadow of the player who has made such an impact this year. Jabeur is not the most mobile of opponents, but she rarely needed to be as her perfect range-finding and searing power kept Konta constantly on the back foot.
Johanna finally held service at 2-1 to cling on, aided by a couple of Jabeur errors, but the reprieve was temporary and the Tunisian resumed normal service, in every sense, holding for 3-1 and then producing three awesome forehands to break Konta once again for 4-1.
Now Jo was looking for inspiration, or a Jabeur implosion, or a miracle. None happened. There was fleeting hope for the home fans as Konta wrenched three break points on Jabeur’s serve, but even then the North African grappled back to deuce and then to win the game. 5-2, and simply no stopping the outsider now, from notching the shock of the tournament.
The Devonshire Park skies had brightened after that early drizzle, but the mood on court was anything but bright - although in fairness the Court One crowd loudly saluted Ons Jabeur as she hammered her way to victory in the final game.
Jabeur, a stocky and slightly unlikely figure on court, wore the broadest of grins and quite rightly relished her moment. She may rank 62 in the world, but today she was on top of the world.
Jabeur said, “I like the way I played. I like to make crazy shots. I think the rain brought me luck and the win. The crowd are very fair. Konta is a great player and has inspired me in the past. I hope the crowd can come with me now.”