Konta stunned by lucky loser Pera

  • Michael Beattie

Second serves, advantage scoring, three- and five-set matches – tennis is a sport built on the premise of second chances. And Bernarda Pera, the lucky loser who was parachuted into her first Grand Slam draw at the last minute, is making the very most of her reprieve.

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The 23-year-old, who took injured Russian Margerita Gasparyan’s spot in the draw late on Sunday, is through to the third round of the Australian Open after ousting an out-of-sorts Johanna Konta 6-4 7-5 for the biggest win of her career.

“It feels amazing,” said Pera, who will face No.20 seed Barbora Strycova in the third round. “I was ready to leave on Monday and then they told me I'm in, so I was obviously excited. I was checking the tickets to fly back. I'm happy I didn't buy one.”

Croatian-born American Pera was relentless throughout the contest, trading blows with the No.9 seed from the back of the court and dealing better with the hot, blustery conditions on Show Court 2 as Konta struggled from the outset, saving a break point in the opening game. With the sun hanging high in the Melbourne sky, Konta’s serve lacked its typical punch and left-hander Pera capitalised when it mattered, converting her next break point for a 5-4 lead, serving out the set having dropped just seven points on serve.

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Konta seemed stunned by her opponent’s power when on the offensive, snatching any opportunity to step into the court and punish Pera’s shaky defensive game. But the world No.123 gave as good as she got, trading breaks early in the second before moving 5-3 ahead and bringing up her first match points with Konta, struggling with the sun, serving to stay in the match.

14 Johanna Konta
26 Bernarda Pera

Three came and went, and when Konta held and broke back for 5-5 it seemed the tide had turned in favour of the world No.10. But Pera was not done, hammering a backhand return on break point that left Konta floored and looking to her coach Michael Joyce, incredulous at the situation.

“I think when I'm not serving the way I want to, I don't think I'm putting as much pressure on them in their service games as well,” Konta said. “I think I just didn't play great. It wasn't like I wasn't out on court – I competed and my opponent beat me, so there is credit due to her. I think you can count on one hand how many perfect matches you have.”

This time Pera finished the job, sealing victory on her fifth match point when Konta framed a smash that sailed away into the stands. “I was more nervous to serve out the first time, when I lost the game at 5-4,” she said before leaving the court. “I felt a little less nervous at 6-5. I am so happy that I was able to finish it.”

Played five, won four, still going: in this game, you make your own luck.