Johanna Konta admitted the abuse she received at the Fed Cup tie in Romania will take time to get over as Great Britain slipped to defeat on Sunday.
Konta gave full credit to Simona Halep, whose 6-1, 6-3 victory over the British number one set the stage for a day of home celebration at Tenis Club IDU in Constanta. That left the visitors needing to win both the remaining rubbers but Romania completed the job in the next match when Irina-Camelia Begu defeated Heather Watson 6-4 7-5.
Konta had been left shaken after being verbally abused first by Romanian captain Ilie Nastase and then the crowd during her clash with Sorana Cirstea on Saturday.
Nastase was banned from the premises for the rest of the tie and a charged atmosphere was expected when Konta faced Halep, playing in her home city for the first time since her junior days.
After winning the first three points, Konta lost 10 in a row and, aside from a spell at the start of the second set, was unable to sustain any momentum.
The British number one said: “I think it’s really important for me to separate what happened yesterday and the tennis match today. I think Simona played well and came out and played a lot freer than I was expecting. There’s obviously an effect that yesterday had on me. However, it has to be about the tennis and I gave my best today with what I had.
“I think it’ll be something I’ll do my best to overcome and to just understand. It’s not something I’ve ever experienced before and I hope never to experience it again. I felt the crowd today were a lot fairer and I felt they supported Simona well.”
Salt was rubbed in the wound when Cirstea gave a press conference after the match accusing Konta of exaggerating what had happened for her own benefit. The match was stopped for more than 20 minutes at 6-2, 1-3 after Konta became tearful, with the British player winning five straight games on the resumption.
Konta said: “With all due respect to Sorana, she wasn’t on my side of the court, she didn’t feel verbally threatened, she wasn’t in my shoes. I think there may have been a lack of communication to her about what was going on on my side of the court and I do believe she only had half of the facts but I think nobody should have to put up with – in life or in any way – to feel verbally threatened and subjected to that sort of abuse.
“I’ve never had anything like that before, I’ve never been in an environment like that before. Hopefully in a few days’ time or a week or however long it takes, it will be something I look back on and say: ‘Well yes, at least that’s under my belt and another great experience’. But it’s not something I would wish anyone to go through.”
Halep stopped short of backing up Cirstea’s accusations of gamesmanship but was passionate in her defence of the crowd and used that as fire to help her defeat Konta.
The world number five said: “Yes I had extra motivation because in my opinion the public was very fair yesterday, they didn’t say anything bad, they just were supporting us, like today, and I want to thank them for being close to us even if this situation. I don’t want to say about Sorana’s comment. My opinion is that it (what happened) was a little bit too much, everything. Of course I’m not defending anyone but I’ll defend my public and our country because we were fair.”
The last comment was a reference to Nastase’s behaviour. It was Halep who called for the former world number one to be appointed captain last October. An investigation conducted by the International Tennis Federation is ongoing into his actions on Saturday as well as at the draw on Friday, when he was heard to make an apparently racist remark about Serena Williams’ unborn baby and asked for British captain Anne Keothavong’s room number.
Halep said: “I don’t know what the people will decide about this. My captain is my captain, maybe he did (make) mistakes. I was not there right on the court but I heard some things so I cannot defend anything here.”
The defeat extends Britain’s wait to return to Fed Cup World Group level into a 25th year, and they desperately need Konta to stick with the competition. Asked about her commitment to the team moving forward, the 25-year-old said: “I think that’s something that time will tell. I really enjoy representing my country and think the principles of what Fed Cup is about and the team environment is a great thing to be a part of.
“It’s unfortunate that the events of yesterday overshadowed this competition and especially our tie. Time will tell but hopefully I’ll still be involved.”
* From Press Association
World No1 Andy Murray has accepted a wildcard for next week’s Barcelona Open where he will be looking to regain his confidence following an early exit in Monte Carlo.
Playing his first tournament back from a right elbow injury that forced him to miss Miami and the Davis Cup quarter-finals, Murray bizarrely squandered a 4-0 lead in the deciding set to lose 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 to Spanish world No24 Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the Monte Carlo third round on Thursday.
The Brit, who is defending 3,160 points this clay stretch through Roland Garros, will join a strong Barcelona field (tournament starts Monday) that includes nine-time champion Rafael Nadal, Japan’s two-time champion Kei Nishiori and Austrian world No9 Dominic Thiem.
Murray, who spent a few years living and training in Barcelona as a young teenager, last participated in the Catalan tournament in 2012, where had his best result, reaching the quarter-finals.
The 29-year-old has had a tricky 2017 so far, where he has amassed a 13-4 win-loss record, with his only title coming in Dubai early last month.
He was not pleased with his surprise defeat to Ramos-Vinolas in Monte Carlo but can at least find some comfort in the fact that his elbow is in good shape.
“I’m disappointed to lose from the position that I was in. I mean, if you sort of look at the scoreline, it was 7-5 in the third. One week ago I would have been okay with that. But sitting here, being 4-Love up in the third, I haven’t lost many matches like that in my career,” Murray told reporters in Monte Carlo on Thursday.
“Obviously disappointed to lose. But yeah, I mean, maybe tomorrow or a day after I’ll be able to look back a little bit and think where I’m at now from where I was a week ago.
“My elbow felt pretty good. I served much better today than I did yesterday. That’s only going to get better. So hopefully I keep going in the right direction.”
The Barcelona Open starts Monday April 24 and concludes on April 30.
Serena Williams is expecting a baby and will not play again this year but aims to return to the women’s tour in 2018.
The 35-year-old posted a picture of herself via Snapchat captioned “20 weeks” on Wednesday and her publicist Kelly Bush Novak made an official announcement.
“I’m happy to confirm Serena is expecting a baby this fall,” the publicist said in a statement.
While Williams won’t play again this year, “she looks forward to returning in 2018,” Bush Novak said.
Williams’ social media post showed the 35-year-old in a yellow swimsuit that revealed the baby bump.
But the post was quickly taken down, lending to an air of mystery over its meaning.
In December, Williams announced her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, first sharing that news on the Reddit social media site.
If Williams is 20 weeks into her pregnancy, that means she was already expecting when she won her record-setting 23rd Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January – where she beat her elder sister Venus in the final.
Here are a selection of the best tweets from the tennis community, congratulating Serena’s news:
@serenawilliams 🍼❤ 🎊!! You will be such an amazing mother and I wish your family health and happiness for the best journey in the world 😍— Angelique Kerber (@AngeliqueKerber) April 20, 2017
There's gonna be a baby GOAT ..... We are so happy, and we know @serenawilliams will be a great mother— andyroddick (@andyroddick) April 20, 2017
She won a grand slam pregnant. I needed Andy to dress me, carry me, and delicately place me on the toilet when I was 4 weeks pregnant. https://t.co/gxXaj6VVDF— Brooklyn Decker (@BrooklynDecker) April 20, 2017
"Auntie Caro" sounds pretty good to me☺️😍 Everyone around me getting pregnant! What a beautiful time 😍😍❤️👶🏼👶🏼👶🏼— Caroline Wozniacki (@CaroWozniacki) April 20, 2017
A baby and a wedding? A VERY special year ahead for @serenawilliams So happy for her new journey...— Chris Evert (@ChrissieEvert) April 19, 2017
And here’s some more reaction…
Serena Williams announcing her pregnancy on Maria Sharapova's birthday pic.twitter.com/t7t8R9Uu0q— chrissy (@chRIHssy) April 19, 2017
So Serena cheated. Because that's technically a doubles match.🙌🏽 https://t.co/gkyBYlcHtQ— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) April 19, 2017
Serena Williams is 20 weeks pregnant I hope I'm the baby— Evan (@Well_its_evan) April 19, 2017