Johanna Konta suffers shock US Open defeat to world No. 77 Sorana Cirstea

Johanna Konta crashed out of the US Open on Thursday, failing to capitalise after leading by a set and a break as she slumped to defeat to Sorana Cirstea.

The British No. 1 was the ninth seed in New York and had reached the semi-finals in the same venue at the Western & Southern Open last week.

But she succumbed to a shock defeat, losing 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 4-6 in two hours and 47 minutes.

Konta, a US Open quarter-finalist last year, had won her only previous meeting with Cirstea at Eastbourne in straight sets and looked on course for a similar result when she led by a set and a break.

But the world No. 77 from Romania had other ideas, striking the ball fiercely as she rallied back into the contest to secure an unlikely victory.

After the match, Konta rushed into her post-match press conference and was complimentary of the player on the other side of the net.

‘Well, my opponent played better than me,’ said Konta. ‘I think that’s really about it.

‘I obviously started better. I think my level was a lot higher than hers in the first set. But she’s a great player. She’s had some pretty amazing results also in the past in her career. She’s capable of playing some very good tennis.

‘She obviously raised her level. We were battling kind of toe-to-toe really. She just was better in the end.

‘To be honest, I think what we’ve seen time and time again in every tournament is that these are the best players in the world, so on any given day they can play incredible tennis.

‘Obviously the higher you are ranked, the more consistently you are able to play that level. However, everybody’s capable to play some really amazing tennis. That’s what she did.’

With six of the top-10 absent from the draw, this felt like an opportunity for Konta to go deep into a Slam and she insists she hasn’t given up hope on winning a major for the first time.

‘Yeah. Yes, I do [still believe],’ added Konta. ‘That’s why I keep playing. That’s why I keep training. Yes, I do.’

Cirstea will face Karolina Muchova next, the 20th seed from the Czech Republic.

Muchova, a former Wimbledon quarter-finalist, took out Venus Williams in the first round before beating Anna Kalinskaya in straight sets to advance to round three.

It was a clean start from the British No. 1.

She eased to the first set with her usual rasping groundstrokes and an early break in the second seemed to put her in total control.

But Cirstea, 30, quickly hit back and began to find her serve in big moments, saving four break points across the ninth and 11th games of the second set.

The Romanian’s resolve was rewarded as she levelled in a tiebreak, with Konta left to rue missed opportunities.

Moving into the third hour of the match, things went from bad to worse for Konta who fell a break down in the decider.

She hit back but was immediately pegged back again and despite saving two match points with big serves in the ninth game of the third set, she crashed out.

Konta’s fellow top-10 seed Muguruza tumbled out on Thursday.

The former French Open and Wimbledon champion has only been beyond the second round of the US Open once during her esteemed career and she was beaten in straight sets by Tsvetana Pironkova.

‘It’s true that historically the US Open doesn’t seem to have a lot of success for now, the first rounds, over the years,’ said Muguruza after the 7-5 6-3 loss.

‘The decision to come to the US Open I made two days before arriving here. It was really just giving me the chance to compete. I really didn’t felt quite prepared. I just said to myself, Okay, I just go, try to compete, see what I can take out of it, just give myself a chance.

‘I came here knowing that I was not going to feel perfect ready. You normally don’t feel perfect, but I knew that the preparation was different.

‘My decision was a little bit last minute. I knew that it could go both ways. I knew that I could go out there and not feel probably super prepared.

‘I didn’t mind it. I just wanted to come here, test a little bit myself, see where I am tennistically, physically, and add as many matches as I can to I guess this strange year.’

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