Australian Open 2018: Bernarda Pera claims shock win over Johanna Konta

Australian Open 2018: Bernarda Pera claims shock win over Johanna Konta

The American managed the blistering hot conditions well and took advantage of a below par opponent to advance.

John Lupo

Ninth seed Johanna Konta was sent out of the Australian Open in spectacular fashion by American lucky loser Bernarda Pera 6-4, 7-5 in the second round in one hour, 44 minutes.

Pera, ranked 123rd, only gained entry into the main draw when Margarita Gasparyan withdrew hours before her first round match against Anna Blinkova. The 23-year old beat Blinkova and now faces 20th seed Barbora Strycova for a spot in the Round of 16.

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Late break gives Pera the first set

Played in the scorching heat with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees, it was Pera who gained the first chance of the match with a break point, saved by Konta. That would be the only look either player would have for the majority of the set, the returner not getting past 30 for the next seven games.

With the score level at 4-4, the American had 0-40 on the Konta serve and a backhand crosscourt winner handed her a surprising lead. Serving for the set, Pera led 40-15 and her aggressive play, charging forward, led to Konta's 14th and final error of the set, the lucky loser stunningly in front.

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American claims victory in straight sets

Konta needed a quick response as the second set began and she earned her first break points of the match at 15-40. Perhaps showing signs of nerves for the first time in the match, Pera double-faulted to hand the ninth seed the break and a 2-0 lead.

If this fortnight in Melbourne has taught us anything so far, it's to expect the unexpected and that's what happened in the very next game as Konta attempted to dig out of a 0-40 hole. Saving the first two, her drop shot was poor and Pera had an easy forehand putaway to gte the set back on serve.

The warning signs were there and after the Brit saved a break point in the fifth game, she was staring down a bushel full in the seventh game. Staving off four break opportunities from her underdog opponent, a backhand just wide gave Pera the lead once again on her fifth chance.

After a hold, it appeared to be all over for the 2016 Melbourne semifinalist as she faced three match points at 5-3 down, but shoeing her resiliency, she saved them all and broke in the next game with help from the challenge system as Pera's backhand just went wide.

It sometimes pays to be lucky and with Konta serving, Pera received a slice of that luck when the Brit slipped at 30-40 attempting to play the American's backhand, handing her the break. Now serving for the match, the 23-year old reached 40-0 and after saving the first match point, Konta made a mess of an overhead on the second, sending the 123rd-ranked Pera into the next round.

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Post-match analysis

Pera is the very definition of a lucky loser. Credit her for hanging around Melbourne when most other players would have gone home, especially getting blitzed in the final round of qualifying. Gasparyan gave her a chance and she made full use of it. In beating Konta, she mixed up her groundstrokes very well, came in at the right time and took her chances with aplomb. Strycova is a beatable opponent and if the American can get out to a lead, the feisty Czech may become her latest upset victim.

For Konta, a loss this early in Melbourne will likely signal her exit from the Top 10 at least for a short while. After injuring her hip in Brisbane, she got dumped out of Sydney in the first round as the defending champion. With the brutal conditions and slipping twice, the Brit was in bad shape and her progression through the tournament may have not lasted much longer even if she had won this match. Konta will be fine, but she is experiencing serious issues as a top player for the first time.