Madison Keys dealt with her tight opening round defeat to Johanna Konta at the Brisbane International with great perspective and lots of positivity after the pair put on an impressive show to start the new year.
In a first round clash between two players ranked No. 9 and No. 19 in the world, it was the higher-ranked Konta who came out on top 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a two-hour seven-minute battle.
“It was damn good tennis today so… I haven’t played a match in four months so I was like it’s a win for me,” said a smiling Keys, who is back to full health now after going through wrist surgery early last year.
“Obviously knew it was going to be a tough match. Played really well, she played better, not much that I can do about it, not that upset about it. I think if I played the way that I played, against most people today I probably would have won. She happened to be better, too good.”
Konta had not won a match since August and ended 2017 with five consecutive defeats while struggling with a left foot injury.
The 26-year-old Brit is pleased to put that all behind her as she started 2018 in fine fashion, under the guidance of her new coach Michael Joyce, who previously worked with Maria Sharapova.
“It feels good to come through a match like that especially in three sets and especially against someone like her but I never lost faith in my ability,” said Konta of her win over Keys.
“I think both of us were kind of violently pushed into not being rusty or does come out still in little areas, in 30-alls or love-30s. I feel it more personally with concentration levels.”
Keys, a runner-up at the US Open last September, is upbeat about her start to the season despite the loss.
“That match could have happened late in a Grand Slam or in the finals of another tournament, happened first round. Too good,” said the 22-year-old American.
“Honestly, I look back at last year, and I won five matches total up to Stanford and then I won Stanford. So who knows what I’m going to do. Winning a first round but playing really well, or losing it and playing really well… kind of feels the same right now.”
— WTA (@WTA) January 1, 2018
Konta next faces Croatia’s Ajla Tomljanovic, who was the runner-up at Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in Dubai less than three weeks ago.
Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina believes she can become world number one in 2018 despite a host of challengers for the coveted top ranking.
Svitolina, currently ranked sixth in the world, was speaking after an impressive 6-2, 6-4 win over Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in the first round of the Brisbane International on Monday.
The 23-year-old cruised through the first set but was forced to fight harder in the second as Suarez Navarro began to find her range with powerful groundstrokes.
But the Spaniard faltered while serving at 4-5 and Svitolina was able to close out the match in just under 90 minutes.
Svitolina won five titles in 2017 on her way to a career-high world ranking of number three.
She said she had worked hard during the off-season and there was no reason why she could not win a Grand Slam or take the top ranking.
She edges Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-4. pic.twitter.com/sM3gatGUKk
— WTA (@WTA) January 1, 2018
Svitolina said her ability to raise her game to see off someone as dangerous as Suarez Navarro showed she was also capable of taking the next step.
“This match was a good example that I can play a good level of tennis, a high level of tennis,” she said.
“So I will try to continue to work and to, you know, to just be focused on these kind of things.
“That’s what’s important for me – and then the Grand Slam and number one is all going to come if I have my game, if I’m healthy, if I’m playing my best.”
Svitolina will take on Ana Konjuh in the second round following the Croatian’s 6-1, 6-2 win over Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens on Sunday.
A miserable run by sixth-seeded Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic continued when she lost to Belarus qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
— WTA (@WTA) January 1, 2018
Mladenovic, who has not won a match since Wimbledon, raced through the first set before Sasnovich fought back to win 1-6, 6-3, 7-5.
In other first-round matches, 2012 champion Kaia Kanepi from Estonia beat Russia’s Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-2.
Kanepi’s compatriot Anett Kontaveit beat England’s Heather Watson 6-0, 6-3 and Sorana Cirstea of Romania saw off American Jennifer Brady 7-6 (3), 6-1.
In the men’s draw Matthew Ebden set up a second-round clash with fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios when he beat Frances Tiafoe of the USA 6-3, 6-2.
There was better news for the Americans when Ryan Harrison downed Argentine Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 to book a clash with second seed Andy Murray.
Romania’s Halep, who will be seeking her maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in two weeks’ time, struck 12 winners to blitz the 110th-ranked American in one hour and nine minutes.
“We had a big crowd, which was nice to play in front of,” Halep said after her first-round match in the southern Chinese city, where she won in 2015.
Halep won the first set with the help of an aggressive forehand, and then opened the second set with a crunching backhand winner down the line before running away with the match.
“It’s always nice to play here in Shenzhen,” said Halep, who next faces Duan Ying-Ying in round two. “I won a title here three years ago already. It’s my first victory this year as number one in the world, so I’m just happy and enjoying the time.”
The world No. 1 does not have a clothing sponsor after her partnership with adidas ended on December 31, 2017 and she said she has no news regarding who she plans on signing with.
“With adidas it’s finished. Yesterday was the last day i was wearing adidas clothes. I have nothing now,” said Halep. “My manager is looking after this so I have no idea. It’s just the first day of the year and I’m looking forward to see what the future gives me and I’m okay.”
Meanwhile five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova, making her Shenzhen debut, dispatched Romania’s world number 56 Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-3, 6-0 in an hour and 20 minutes.
The Russian, who is embarking on her first full season since returning from a 15-month doping ban in April, sealed her straight sets win after striking 18 winners to 20 unforced errors.
“It’s quite remarkable to see a full stadium for a first round,” she said. “It’s my first time here, so I didn’t know what to expect.”
Sharapova, currently ranked No. 59 in the world, next plays USA’s Alison Riske in the second round.