Jo Konta’s descent from the very elite level of the women’s tour was always going to come with the price tag of being unseeded at the Grand Slams.
She duly paid that when she went out of the US Open first round on an afternoon excrutiating heat and humidity that proved simply too much for several male players.
The only consolation for Konta in a straight sets 6-2, 6-2 defeat at the hands of France’s Caroline Garcia was that she did not need to spend any more time exposed to elements that had spectators fleeing for cover.
Jo Konta stretches for the ball during her first round defeat by Caroline Garcia at the US Open
Her biggest problem, however, was facing the high quality No six seed in the first round – something that she has not had to contend with since the 2016 Australian Open.
Konta’s elevation up the rankings which began 2016 offered her protection in the draw by being seeded, but after falling from the top 32 following Wimbledon she is at the mercy of the draw along with the rest of the rank and file.
The British number one came in with a 3-2 record against world number six Garcia but there are now more than 40 places between them.
Konta beat her in Wimbledon’s fourth round last year en route to the semi-final, although the French player had revenge of a sort when a late season surge kept her out of the elite eight-woman field for the season-end WTA Finals in Singapore.
The two play in fairly similar fashion, and while Konta started brightly enough she was soon falling behind to the power and consistency of her opponent’s groundstrokes.
On a sparsely populated Grandstand court the British player could not come up with a way to disrupt her opponent and when she went behind 3-1 in the second there was no way back. She was notably outserved by her opponent, although the scoreline was arguably unflattering at the end.
When she lost in the first round on the same arena this time a year ago it was considered quite an upset, but this one went with the formbook.
Konta at least has no points to defend between now and the end of the year, but there is no sign of the form that last summer had her as high as world number four. Infact, in the last five Grand Slams she has won only two matches.
Yesterday’s brutal heat led to one of the more curious code violations of recent times. France’s Alize Cornet left her court to change her shirt, putting it on back to front. Upon realising this mistake she took it off and put it back on the correct way in full public view, thereby incurring the umpire’s displeasure.
Officials were contemplating closing the roofs on the two stadiums that had them and there were two heat-related retirements in the men’s first round earlier in the day.
While Konta was playing Novak Djokovic was struggling physically against Hungary’s Marton Fuscsovics and at one point asked for a bin to be placed close to his chair in case he needed to throw up.
A heat rule was brought in allowing a ten-minute break after the third set of matches if necessary, and this spike in the weather is expected to last for at least another 24 hours.