US Open 2017: Briton Konta makes shock exit but Edmund and Norrie make round two
British No1 Johanna Konta suffers a surprise defeat at the US Open, but Kyle Edmund and Cameron Norrie both reach round two
British expectations in tennis’s Majors have long rested on the shoulders of Andy Murray, but home support suffered a double blow this week after multiple triumphs last year.
Murray, hit by a hip injury in the final stages of the French Open, could not replicate last year’s wins at Queen’s and Wimbledon, and did not play a single match on North America’s hard courts before arriving in New York for several days of extended practice.
Still he was not fully healed, knew he could not make a concerted impact on the US Open draw, and withdrew. So the week after he gave up the No1 ranking to Rafael Nadal marked the first time he had missed the last Major of the year since his first appearance in 2005.
These days, though, Murray has been joined among Major seeds by the British women’s No1, Johanna Konta, and this year she arrived in New York as the No7 seed after briefly hitting her highest ranking of No4 following her first semi-final finish at Wimbledon.
Indeed Konta, after seeking out the help of a sports psychologist at the end of 2014, had put behind her a few years of occasional wins but unpredictable losses, to make a real impact, and nowhere more so than here in New York in 2015.
She only broke the top 50 at the start of 2016, did not win her first title until Stanford last year, and won her first Premier Mandatory this March in Miami, but she first showed her full promise at the US Open. It was 2015, she was ranked 97, and she came through qualifying to reach her first fourth round at a Major, beating world No9 and No18 in the process.
Now, remarkably, Konta was one of eight women in the draw who could claim the No1 ranking by the end of the tournament, though she had to win the title and have the results of the other seven go her way.
Her first hurdle in that ambition was Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic, ranked only 77, but like Konta she had reached the fourth round here—back in 2014. She made a big impression in beating No4 seed Petra Kvitova in straight sets, and almost got the better of Victoria Azarenka, too.
Her form had since slipped, but she picked up a win over French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in Cincinnati. Could she cause another upset in her first meeting against Konta?
In the early goings, it looked not. Konta got a quick break and opened a 4-1 lead, and although Krunic unleashed some cracking forehands to level, Konta broke her to love and served out the set, 6-4.
The smart and varied tennis of the young Serbian made more inroads in the second set, and though Konta defended serve in a 10-minute sixth game, she could not do so again. Krunic broke and held to love for the set, 6-3.
Konta was soon in trouble in the third set, too. They exchanged breaks in the early stages, but Krunic’s low, angled hitting drew growing errors at the net from Konta, and earned a break in the seventh game. The Briton found some big serves to hold for 4-5 but Krunic never faltered, serving it out with ease, 6-4, after two and a quarter hours.
Konta was one of just two British women in the draw with Heather Watson, but the No74-ranked woman from Guernsey had been unable to regain the form she found on the summer’s grass. She has never won a match at the US Open in six previous attempts, and she lost again to the tricky Frenchwoman, Alize Cornet, ranked 46, in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
However, despite the absence of Murray in the men’s draw, there was heartening news in the shape of the second-ranked British man, Kyle Edmund.
He made a splash here last year, reaching his first Major fourth round in his first main-draw appearance in New York. And he looked like regaining that form ahead of this year’s draw, too. Since Wimbledon, he had made the semis in Atlanta, beating Jack Sock on the way, and came through qualifying in a tough Winston-Salem field to reach the semis, beating American Steve Johnson.
Edmund quickly showed that form against the No32 seed, Robin Haase, winning the first set convincingly in just over half an hour, 6-3. When he broke in a long seventh game in the second set, he looked set to roll through quickly, but Haase broke back, and Edmund had to break again to take it, 7-5, and he then broke at the start of the third. A double fault by the Dutchman on match-point, sealed the deal, 6-3, in under two hours.
Now, he will take on Johnson for the second time in as many weeks after the American beat Nicolas Almagro.
However, the surprise package in New York has been Cameron Norrie, ranked 225 this week, the fifth ranked Briton and the third in the main draw.
Norrie only turned 22 last week, and only turned professional at the start of the year, but he arrived here with considerable success on the hard-court Challenger circuit, winning one title, making the semis of another.
That served him well, and the left-hander came through qualifying without dropping a set to play his first US Open match against veteran Dmitry Tursunov, who had played just five matches this year and virtually none last year after a succession of hip and foot injuries.
It proved to be a stroke of good fortune for Norrie: this was a winnable contest, and after grabbing the first set in a tie-break, Tursunov conceded two quick breaks in the second. He was struggling to contain some fine baseline power from the Briton who was born—like fellow Brit Kyle Edmund—in South Africa.
Sure enough, after the fifth game, 1-4 down, the Russian called the trainer for attention to his right knee, had it strapped up, but could do no more than offer up the last two games to Norrie, 6-1. He retired, giving the Briton his first ever Major match-win.
The level goes up several notches with his next match: Norrie plays the No12 seed, Pablo Carreno Busta, and will no doubt be grateful for the extra recovery time he will now enjoy.
The final Briton in the draw, No48-ranked Aljaz Bedene, opens tomorrow against the impressive teenager, Andrey Rublev, ranked 53 in the world.