Johanna Konta missed the chance to end a 36-year wait for a home winner at a British WTA event with a three-set defeat to Donna Vekic in the Nottingham Open final
Konta was not at her best on a sweltering day in Nottingham but had looked on course for victory after comfortably taking the first set. Vekic, the world No70, rallied spectacularly, outplaying Konta for long periods before taking the second set in a tie-break.
Vekic broke Konta at the start of the third set, but the momentum swung again when the British No1 broke back and took a 5-4 lead. The unseeded 20-year-old, appearing in her first Tour final for two years, then showed great resilience to reel off the next three games and earn her second Tour title, winning 6-2, 6-7 (3), 5-7.
Konta was magnanimous in defeat after missing out on a fourth WTA tournament win. “[Donna] was able to continuously raise her level throughout the match and I was just not able to stay with her,” she told Eurosport.
“I’m very happy that I got to play five great matches on the grass. Heading into Wimbledon, you want to play as much on the surface as possible.”
Vekic, who could prove a tricky opponent at Wimbledon next month, said: “I was just trying to focus on myself, serve as well as I could and be aggressive. Wimbledon is my favourite tournament of the year, I’m really happy I can go there winning a few matches.”
Vekic made a nervous start, with two double faults helping Konta break to love. The outsider was handed two break‑back points in the sixth game but Konta delivered a pair of aces to maintain her lead.
In the next game Vekic gave up another break point, and a powerful cross-court forehand earned Konta the chance to serve for the first set. The British No1 was starting to find her rhythm on serve and closed out the set in style.
After the first three games of the second set went with serve, a string of unforced errors from the world No8 allowed Vekic to break. Konta punished a poor drop shot to earn a break point in the next game, with Vekic serving a double fault again under pressure.
Despite that setback Vekic continued to look the stronger player, and earned set points on Konta’s serve in the 10th and 12th games. Konta’s frustration led to a row with the umpire after a cross-court shot from Vekic was called in, but showed trademark tenacity to stay in the set.
There was little to separate the two in the tie-break, until a winner down the line gave Vekic the edge at 4-3. Two big serves brought up another three set points, and the Croatian levelled the match after Konta sent a forehand long.
Konta continued to struggle with the accuracy of Vekic’s returns in the third set, and became involved in another heated altercation over a line call. Vekic stayed focused and earned another break point, converted with a crashing forehand volley.
The momentum was with Vekic, Konta unable to make any inroads on her serve – but in the sixth game a string of unforced errors gave Konta the break back she desperately needed.
A dominant hold meant the pressure was suddenly back on Vekic, but she held serve emphatically and then outlasted Konta in a punishing rally to claim two more break points. She took the second as Konta found the net, and found herself serving for the title. Vekic battled to championship point, and sealed a dramatic victory when Konta sent her return long.
After this week’s event in Edgbaston, Konta will head to Eastbourne for the Aegon International. The world No1, Angelique Kerber, has withdrawn with a hamstring injury, and faces a race to be fit for Wimbledon.