Johanna Konta knocked out of French Open after defeat by Cirstea

Great Britain will be without a women’s player in the Roland Garros second round this year after the 19th seed Johanna Konta was outplayed 7-6(5), 6-2 in the opening round by the world No 54 Sorana Cirstea.

Earlier in the day, Heather Watson fell 6-4 7-5 to the No 93 Zarina Diyas. Their defeats mark the second worst performance by British players at Roland Garros since 2013 when no Britons reached the second round. As is becoming a regular occurrence these days, the last player standing is the in-form Cameron Norrie who defeated Bjorn Fratangelo 7-5, 7-6(5), 6-2.

Despite the ranking disparity between Konta and Cirstea, Konta’s defeat was no surprise. Cirstea, also the British player’s conqueror in the second round of last year’s US Open, is 25th in the WTA race rankings that include only results in 2021. Konta is 97th, she has struggled badly with her form this year and victories have been scarce. She has compiled just a 3-7 record this season with three consecutive defeats.

A gulf in form and confidence is so often evident in the important moments. In their case, it showed at 3-3 in the first‑set tiebreak. After the change of ends, Konta missed an easy short forehand and Cirstea promptly slammed the door shut. As Konta ended the tiebreak with a series of errors, Cirstea landed three consecutive first serves and held on to her mini-break. With the first set settled, she relaxed and thoroughly outplayed Konta until the end. “I think I did a lot of good things out there but obviously not enough,” said Konta. “I think she found her footing quite well, and I couldn’t quite adapt well enough to how she was doing. She was hitting through the court really well and playing fast and playing big, which is how she looks to play.”

With another first-round defeat, Konta maintains her unique record in Paris: of her seven appearances, Konta has lost in the first round six times. The one time she reached the second round, she continued until the semi-final and had a realistic opportunity to win the title.

Konta’s relaxed demeanour in the press conference led to a question about her motivation, which she brushed aside. “Obviously you do evolve and you do change, so even the way I was playing my tennis two years ago was different to two years before that to two years before that,” she said. “It keeps evolving as I grow up, as I turn from a teenager to young adult to now a 30-year-old woman. So, life changes. But I’m here because I’m training to be here, to compete.

“So I will be playing until I [no longer] want to do that.”

While Konta heads to the grass season in search of the string of victories needed to ignite her season, Watson noted her frustration at her physical condition after a difficult few weeks. Watson’s shoulder was strapped and she said that a recent cold and other ailments led to days of missed practice that affected her fitness on the court. While she felt she was striking the ball cleanly, she could not match Diyas’s physicality throughout the match.

“I haven’t been able to train as much as I wanted to, so I need to just get back on the court straight away,” she said. “I just feel absolutely knackered now after a two-set singles match which I shouldn’t be feeling. So, yeah, I just want to get back out there as soon as possible and just be healthy, be training healthy and feel good on the match court.”

While his compatriots departed, Norrie shrugged off his own doubts stemming from consecutive first‑round defeats in Paris to maintain his supreme form and advance with minimal problems. There has otherwise been little reason for Norrie to doubt – the victory on Monday marked his 24th win of the season, the third most on the ATP this year. He will face Lloyd Harris in the second round with a third-round match with Rafael Nadal, who plays on Tuesday, likely one win away.

“I think Cam’s brilliant,” Konta said. “I think Cam is one of the nicest guys we have at home. I think he’s incredibly hard-working, he puts his head down. I think he’s a great player. I think he plays the game well and, yeah, I think he really is walking his own path. The way he went to American college, as well, he’s doing it his own way. I hope he does really well.” In the first night match in Roland Garros’s history, Serena Williams reached the second round with a 7-6(6), 6-2 win over Irina-Camelia Begu. Williams, who is hoping to play herself into form after struggling to regain her rhythm during the clay season following a three-month hiatus, recovered from 6-5 down and then a 4-6 deficit in the tiebreak before confidently closing out the match. She will face Mihaela Buzarnescu in the second round.