PA Sport 294d

Despite fifth straight loss Johanna Konta set for WTA finals event


Johanna Konta's poor run hit a new low with a 6-1, 6-2 defeat by Monica Niculescu in the opening round of the China Open.

The British No. 1 arrived in Beijing having lost her last four matches and searching for a first victory since mid-August.

Romania's Niculescu is not one of tennis' star names but has arguably the most unorthodox game style on tour, slicing nearly all her forehands and denying opponents any rhythm.

For a player lacking confidence as Konta clearly is, it was a nightmare draw and the world No. 7 endured a miserable 64 minutes.

While Niculescu was rock solid, Konta made 38 unforced errors in 15 games and never threatened a comeback.

It is a far cry from 12 months ago, when Konta, 26, made the final, while her slump since reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon has been dramatic. But she remains well placed to qualify for the WTA Finals in three weeks' time for the first time in her career.

Konta currently sits in the final qualifying position for the eight-woman end-of-season tournament in Singapore, and saw her two closest rivals, Kristina Mladenovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova, also lose in the first round in Beijing.

But her sole concern right now will be trying to rediscover the form she showed earlier in the season.

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