Johanna Konta knocked out of Wimbledon by Dominika Cibulkova

• British No 1 in chastening 6-3, 6-4 second-round defeat
• Konta will fall 19 spots in the world rankings to 43rd place

As much as she would like it to be otherwise, everything in the garden is not so light-hearted, cake-filled and rosy for the ever-smiling Johanna Konta, who went down swinging in two sets against Dominika Cibulkova on day four at Wimbledon and will tumble at least 19 places in the world rankings to 43.

That is the lowest she has been on the WTA list since January 2016, although she contends she is playing better than ever. Occasionally she is. But it was difficult to see the evidence on Centre Court on a warm Thursday afternoon as the opponent she had earlier described as “probably one of the best competitors on tour” lived up to the accolade with a cool, focused performance to win 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 19 minutes.

Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, says he is still waiting for the cake Konta promised to bake for him. The sport’s most ardent pescatarian is not so sure he is going to be testing his strict diet in the remaining days of the tournament. “I know she lost her match,” he said after his own three-set stroll into the third round, “so I don’t know if I’m going to get my cake. Hopefully in the States.”

Konta’s slide in the rankings will put her outside the seedings at the US Open unless she picks up points in San Jose, Montreal, Cincinnati and New Haven, although she is unconcerned.

Cavilling at the suggestion she is in a worse place than she was during her run to the semi-finals here a year ago, she said: “I actually haven’t regressed. Last year I don’t think I added as much to my game as I would have liked. That hurt me towards the end of the year.

“This year I feel like I’m heading in the direction I want to be heading in. I think I’m improving. Sooner or later those results will come.

“If they don’t, they don’t. But I’m happy with where I am in my career and with the work I’m doing. I’m clearer on the way I want to play. I think I’m clearer with the shot selection that I want to do.

“I’m getting fitter. I’m moving forward more, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do.”

Cibulkova, who had failed to hide her disgust at being edged out of the seedings by the accommodation the All England Club correctly made for Serena Williams, said courtside: “It was a tough draw and I can only be happy with my performance. The crowd were really nice to me.”

So was Konta. “She played incredibly well,” she said, brushing aside the notion that, although Cibulkova was unseeded, they might have avoided each so early in the tournament but for the Williams decision.

“I wouldn’t say it’s tougher because she would have been seeded. I think it’s just tough because she’s a great player.”

Konta – like the England football team – started brightly, striking the first of eight aces in the second game, with no hint of her struggles to come. A third ace slammed into the backboard in the sixth game. All looked good.

But when Cibulkova grabbed her first break point after 23 minutes, the cracks widened in Konta’s defence. She butchered a pick-up off a low bounce, then hit long. From there to the end Cibulkova husbanded her slender lead and consolidated it under pressure at the finish.

After dropping serve in the third game of the second set Konta was unusually agitated in an exchange with the Australian chair umpire, John Blom, over her opponent’s fidgety thigh-slapping when receiving. “I’m trying to focus on my job,” Konta said. “I don’t think it’s my job to be pointing these things out. That’s your job.”

Konta fashioned her only break point after nearly an hour, but her composure deserted her hunting down a drop shot and Cibulkova escaped.

Konta saved four match points and held in the eighth game with her eighth ace – all very dramatic, knife-edge stuff. But Cibulkova forced a limp closing reply from Konta’s backhand, which only a year ago was her nailed-on banker.

She insists her performances are better than her results. Some might say that is very much having Novak’s cake and eating it.


Kevin Mitchell at Wimbledon

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