Barty wins nailbiter to capture Nature Valley Open title
Johanna Konta had an ending she wished didn’t happen while Ashleigh Barty added another title to her name at the Nature Valley Open Sunday.
In what was a very tight three-setter full of comebacks ended with the Australian winning her second career WTA title 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 on Centre Court at the Nottingham Tennis Centre.
In their third meeting against each other, the stakes were high as both looked to add another title to their resume.
Barty last won a tournament at Kuala Lumpur last season coming close on two other occasions. Konta who has three to her name since Stanford in 2016 would try for the title on her home soil a second time. Coming so close to it had her destined to take care of business having taken down Barty on the courts before. Both haven’t dropped a set this tournament meaning certain factors would determine who would pick up a new WTA title.
Barty showed her determination scoring her first point on a tournament-leading 26th ace. She gave up a couple of points to Konta but held serve to make a note of her stance. She led through five and took a key break in the sixth opening the gap to two games. With control weighing heavily in her favor, Barty handled the fight of Konta to break back and made it a 5-2 hold. During a break, her coach Michael Joyce came out to tell her to put more on the first serve and get on the line to stay in the set.
With new balls in her hand, Konta delivered some great shots that forced the forehand of Barty’s to err etching out a third win. In her quest to make a comeback, the Brit got some early points against the Aussie’s first serve but dropped the lead hitting the returns long to hand Barty a victory that ended the set in 34 minutes. Konta had racked up seven unforced errors with a majority of them coming in the final game. It took a toll on her serve percentage which Barty had running for her at 71 percent.
Being the first to lose a set, Konta opened service but watched as Barty showed calm and focus when striking back. Small mistakes forced her to lose out on the break and give the 27-year-old some confidence. She lost some of it as Barty opened with a focused service to level up early. They remained deadlocked through six where every win from here on out would be critical for both Barty and Konta. The seventh was a heavy competition for control as Konta had to fight to contain serve. She saved the game to force deuce but still had trouble getting it done. After a few breaks, the world number 22 held to still lead the Aussie.
A break in the eighth gave Konta the lead she wanted taking a 5-3 hold pushing for a third set to get into play. As she served out the set, the Brit gave herself two set points holding one that she won on a volley ended the set in 44 minutes. The improvements of Konta’s overall were got her across the finish line to still compete for a shot at her fourth career title. Barty’s downfall was the returning game winning 7 of 27 on the first serve.
She tried to put that aside as she opened service in the third with a stronghold to build from that moment. A change for the Australian arrived in the fourth breaking Konta to lead 3-1 and force her into trouble. Barty’s focus to play deep in the rallies got her in a comfortable spot. She somehow inspired Konta to do the same as she attempted to use that strategy to fight back within reach. The British number one erred on easy returns that only made it easier for Barty to win the game.
Konta didn’t want that result to happen and made it her mission to hold serve in the sixth doing so with near perfection. She began to build up momentum on Barty’s mistakes with one costing her big on a missed volley near the net. The two-game winning streak turned into a tie at four-all with Konta running her way to try and overtake Barty. The Australian tried to hold Konta back but the unforced errors gave her enough room to force deuce. Every point was critical for either player and to be called right by officials.
On a second AD point to Barty, she was given the game point on a ball that landed out but caught some of the chalk on the baseline. The call sent Konta into a firestorm of rage as she couldn’t call for Hawkeye and suffered what ended up landing out on video evidence. After giving the umpire a piece of her mind, Konta forced herself to play on the low end of the score which summed up her demise. The Australian went on to take the tenth game capturing the championship with ease at 40-0 concluding things in two hours and four minutes.
With the victory going to the Australian, it gives her a lot of confidence to spruce up her dominance on the grass. The loss for Konta would haunt her in what was her second defeat in the final match of the tournament where the call in the ninth completely changed how the story would conclude. Both would put it aside as seven days would stand between them and Wimbledon.