|US Open 2019|
|Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 26 Aug – 8 Sep|
|Coverage: Live text and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra commentary on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app. Click here for Live Guide.|
British number one Johanna Konta missed out on the US Open semi-finals after she was worn down by Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina.
Konta, 28, was unable to impose herself in a 6-4 6-4 defeat on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The 16th seed, aiming to complete the set of major semi-final appearances, was forced into errors by 24-year-old Svitolina’s impressive retrieving.
She saved two match points before rock-solid Svitolina served out the win.
Svitolina, the highest seed left in the draw, will play American 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams or China’s Wang Qiang in the last four.
Konta unable to solve Svitolina problem – but plenty of positives
Despite being outclassed by a superior opponent at the final Grand Slam of the season, Konta can reflect on a successful year at the majors after reaching the French Open semi-finals – on a clay surface on which she had previously struggled – and another run to the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
Former world number four Konta was on the verge of dropping out of the top 50 earlier this year before a change of fortunes under new coach Dimitri Zavialoff – who enjoyed success with Swiss pair Stan Wawrinka and Timea Bacsinszky – has lifted her back to the cusp of the world’s top 10.
The Frenchman has given Konta more “autonomy” to solve the problems put forward by her opponents, although her valiant attempts to play with variation could not unsettle Svitolina.
Konta was the first British woman to reach the US Open quarter-finals since Jo Durie in 1983, but could not match her feat by going one step further as Svitolina maintained her record of not dropping a set during the tournament.
The Ukrainian, who reached the Wimbledon semi-finals and also won the WTA Tour Finals last year, is one of the most consistent ball-strikers in the women’s game and her ability to keep putting the ball back into play proved Konta’s downfall.
It led to Konta trying to force the points with her aggressive returns, leading to 35 unforced errors – and 20 more forced by her opponent – outweighing 24 winners.
By contrast, Svitolina only made 13 unforced errors in a high-quality performance.
“I do feel that was the best I’ve felt her play against me,” Konta said.
“I didn’t play badly at all, I was doing a lot of bright things. She just made me play that extra ball, it’s frustrating.”
Svitolina’s time? Serena might have something to say…
Konta had come into this meeting having lost all four of her previous meetings with Svitolina – and the world number five once again showed she had the tools to blunt the Briton.
The Ukrainian, coached by Englishman Andy Bettles and formerly based in London, broke first for a 3-2 lead before allowing Konta to instantly level, leaving the world number five hammering a ball into the court in anger at letting the advantage disappear.
That soon subsided, however, as three backhand winners snatched the momentum straight back, to the frustration of Konta’s box, which again included British actor Tom Hiddleston.
Konta saved a set point with a stunning volley but a long return gave Svitolina another chance which was taken when the Briton pushed a backhand past the baseline.
Konta’s service game has been the bedrock of her success in New York, yet she was let down by a second serve which yielded just 48% of winning points.
Remarkably, the second set followed exactly the same pattern as the opener as the pair again traded three break in Svitolina’s favour for a 4-3 lead.
Konta’s first double fault of the match indicated her growing anxiety as Svitolina threatened to end the match on the Briton’s serve, a mis-hit forehand bringing up a match point which the Ukrainian hit long.
Another overcooked backhand from Konta brought up a second opportunity, but the Briton dug deep to prolong the match with three accurate serves which Svitolina had no answer to.
Konta had already proved she could damage Svitolina’s serve, but could not break again when it mattered most.
A superb cross-court winner from Svitolina, greeted with a massive roar and a raise of both arms to urge more noise from the crowd, brought up a third match point and she sealed victory when Konta went long.
That brought another wild celebration from Svitolina towards her team and boyfriend Gael Monfils, who will aim to reach the last four of the men’s singles on Wednesday.
“Konta’s shots are very strong so you have to expect that,” Svitolina said.
“You have to react really quickly with your feet to get behind the ball, you know, try to make her hit one more shot.
“Today I did it very good to get lots of balls back and try to get my opportunity.”
BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller
Johanna Konta had the chance to complete a full set of Grand Slam semi-final appearances, but this was not the crushing disappointment of her Wimbledon quarter-final defeat by Barbora Strycova.
Konta was beaten by a world number five who is yet to drop a set in the championships. Svitolina was just a little sharper, and a little more consistent throughout the match.
She made only 13 unforced errors, and is gradually putting the pieces in place to make her a Grand Slam champion. Svitolina’s serve is much improved, and her confidence buoyed by winning last year’s WTA Championships.
That season-ending event is now Konta’s target. She is likely to rise to 11 in the world rankings and will probably also be in 11th place in the annual race to qualify for the eight-woman field in Shenzhen.
So, she is within striking distance, but will need to play exceptionally well in Wuhan and Beijing – the two big-money WTA events coming up in China over the next month.
Tennis coach Judy Murray on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra commentary
That was a masterclass in consistency, court coverage, resilience.
Svitolina served well, she fought quietly. I don’t think Jo played badly, she just didn’t have the consistency to break Svitolina down.
Svitolina was just that bit better overall.