British No.1 Johanna Konta beat 23-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams 6-1 6-0 at Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, completing the victory in just 51 minutes.
Williams, 36, had never lost a match without winning at least two games since turning professional in 1995. In addition, the last time she had only won two games was at the 2014 WTA Finals when she lost to Simona Halep 6-0 6-2 in the Round Robin stage. This result proved to be insignificant as Williams ended up winning that tournament, ironically thumping Halep in the final 6-3 6-0.
However, Johanna Konta (who is currently ranked No.48 in the World) inflicted the worst defeat of Serena Williams’ career with a thumping first-round victory in less than an hour over the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion in San Jose.
Reaction from the players
In her words after the match Konta, 27, was understandably very pleased about her performance but acknowledged that Williams could have played much better. Like most of the tour she was grateful for the opportunity to share the court with the greatest female tennis player of all time.
“I tried to put aside the incredible champion she is and just play the player of the day. She obviously wasn’t playing at her best level, nowhere near it, and I really just tried to play the match on my terms. I felt I did better than her on the day but it’s still a humbling experience to be out here with her.”
Williams, who only returned to the tour in March this year after giving birth to her daughter September 2017, was not too disheartened by the loss, knowing that she can play much better and noted that Konta hadn’t produced a performance like this in a significant time.
“I think she played better in this match than she did in about 18 months so I think that’s a good thing for her. I know I can play a zillion times better, so that helps too.”
The American also hinted at the mitigating circumstances that might have affected her in this match as the public finally found out that her late sister Yetunde’s murderer, Robert Edward Maxfield, had been released from prison since March 8th.
“I have so many things on my mind that I don’t have time to be shocked about a loss that clearly wasn’t at my best right now. I can only try to be there.”
This match was only going to go one way for Serena given that she made 25 unforced errors to Konta’s nine, as she lost 12 games in a row. I do not think Serena will be in championship-winning form by the US Open but she should be able to have a respectable run at the US Open despite this crushing defeat. This is because she always brings a higher level of play to the Grand Slams–her win rate on the tour this year is now 40% (2-3 win-loss), whereas in the Grand Slams it is 90% (9-1 win-loss).
For Konta, this was a very encouraging display after a disappointing 2018 where her lack of consistency had been exposed week-on-week. When looking into it deeper, it is understandable why her performance level has suddenly increased. Now barely inside the Top 50 of the world rankings, most of the pressure to succeed is off Konta, particularly as she has very few points to defend, having ended 2017 on a 5-match losing streak. Therefore, I expect Konta to gradually climb back up the rankings (although not to her previous heights) and the British media to hype about it for the next year.