MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Lucky loser Bernarda Pera sent ninth seed Johanna Konta tumbling out of the second round of the Australian Open on Thursday with a 6-4 7-5 upset in blazing sunshine on court two.
A lackluster serving display from the British number one – she failed to land a single ace – allowed lefthander Pera ample opportunity to showcase her powerful returns off both sides and the 23-year-old American duly delivered.
A single break of serve for 5-4 was enough for the world number 123 to sew up the first set after 39 minutes when Konta sent a backhand long, and Pera was soon all over the Briton’s serve in the second.
Konta, a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park in 2016 and quarter-finalist last year, saved four match points but Pera was not to be denied and set up a meeting with Barbora Strycova when the world number 10 fluffed an overhead volley.
“I think she played very inspired throughout the whole way,” said Konta.
“I think I stayed very much in the match, and I tried to find a way. I battled, and I competed. I just didn’t play well enough, to be honest.
“It’s a bit frustrating, but also I think I’m still taking good stuff from this. I don’t feel, by any means, it’s a massive catastrophe.”
Pera only made it into the women’s singles when Margarita Gaspayran withdrew with a right shoulder injury but has certainly made the most of her opportunity on her Melbourne Park debut.
Konta had bowed out of her Sydney International title defense at the first hurdle last week but made quick work of Madison Brengle in the first round on Tuesday.
She made a poor start against Pera but would have been confident of wresting back control of the match in the second set after breaking the American on a double fault for 2-0.
Pera, though, continued to put huge pressure on Konta’s serve – she mustered up 15 break points in the second stanza – and broke back before racing to a 5-3 lead.
Konta has hardened mentally over the last two years and she saved three match points as Pera served for the match for the first time and once more as the American tried again after breaking for a 6-5 lead.
“I think my serve definitely let me down a little bit today,” Konta added. “I think when I’m not serving the way I want to, I don’t think I’m putting as much pressure on them in their service games as well.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Peter Rutherford/Amlan Chakraborty)