The No.3 Upset of 2017: Aleksandra Krunic added another notable victory to her list of New York City upsets, stunning No.7 seed Johanna Konta in the first round of the US Open.
WTA Staff
November 29, 2017

After counting down the Top 5 WTA matches and Top 5 Grand Slam matches of 2017, our year-end review moves to the biggest upsets of the season.

No.3 on the countdown is superb Serb Aleksandra Krunic’s come-from-behind first-round victory over hardcourt heroine Johanna Konta at the 2017 US Open.

WHAT HAPPENED: Coming into the 2017 US Open, No.7 seed Johanna Konta had been a force to be reckoned with on hardcourts during the year. Konta had compiled a 21-5 win/loss record on that surface up to that point of the season, including winning the biggest title of her career at the Miami Open presented by Itaú, a Premier Mandatory event. 

Additionally, the 26-year-old British No.1 was flying high after delighting her compatriots with her first-ever run to the semifinals of Wimbledon, attaining a career-high World No.4 ranking in the process. A deep run at the US Open could have propelled her to the World No.1 position and, given her hardcourt prowess, it was hardly out of the question.

Unfortunately for Konta, she drew a first-round opponent who had previously pulled off some major upsets in New York. Aleksandra Krunic came to prominence at the US Open three years ago, where, as a qualifier, she shocked Madison Keys and then-World No.4 Petra Kvitova en route to the fourth round.

Despite the difficult draw, Konta still took the initial advantage in the match. The Brit lived and died by her powerful serve at the outset, racing to a 4-1 lead. A blip where Krunic leveled the set at 4-4 was overcome by Konta, due to excellent backhands, and she captured the first set.

Read the match report: Krunic stuns British No.1 Konta in US Open first round

But the Krunic upset magic in New York kicked into full gear for the rest of the match. The diminutive Serb, standing only 5’4”, found the right combination of pristine pace and creative shot selection to claim a decisive break late in the second set, eventually leveling the match at one set apiece.

Konta’s serve became less effective in the deciding set and her unforced error count rose precipitously. Once Krunic claimed a break lead at 4-3, the Serb fed off of her previous US Open heroics to inexorably serve out the match, clinching the second Top Ten win of her career -- and ending Konta’s bid for her first Grand Slam title much sooner than many had expected.

WHAT THEY SAID: Krunic knew that this was a significant victory in her career, not only because of the world ranking of her opponent, but also because of Konta’s form all year. “Jo has definitely been playing amazing recently, and last year she was amazing,” Krunic said. “I think out of all Top 10 players at the moment, I got one of the most solid ones.

“I had to be very decisive from the first point to the last,” added Krunic, who had won her first WTA 125K Series event at the Bol Open earlier in the year, and came into the US Open ranked World No.78. “She definitely pushed me completely to my limits.”

"I follow my instincts everywhere except on the tennis court, which I realized, finally at 24 years old, that doesn't make any sense," Krunic told WTA Insider later in the week. "I'm definitely trying to find a way for myself to play, my body, my talent, everything that I've been given and everything that I've worked for has to become one."

Read more from WTA Insider: Aleksandra Krunic just wants to 'shut up and play'

Listen to the full WTA Insider Podcast with Krunic below:

Konta was aware that the formbook is never a guarantee given the incredible depth of the WTA. “I don't take anything for granted,” the Brit said in her post-match press conference. “I think it would be quite obnoxious of me to come in here expecting I have a right to be in the second week.

“I think first rounds in every tournament, and especially at slams, it can be tricky, can be difficult.” 

Konta admitted that Krunic had outplayed her at the end. “I think she played quite freely, and I think she was able to find her level much quicker and more consistently than I. That's credit to her for dealing with the situation better than I did.

“I think in terms of effort and fight, I competed until the very last point. I think the level of tennis by her was just better.”

Read more: Top 5 Upsets of 2017
No.5: Osaka vs. Kerber, US Open
No.4: Bellis vs. Radwanska, Dubai Duty Free Championships

WHAT IT MEANS: This match caused the combatants to move in opposite directions for the remainder of the year. Krunic continued her upward trajectory, making the quarterfinals or better in her last three events of the year, including her first WTA International final at the Guangzhou Open, where she lost a tight championship match to 30th-ranked Zhang Shuai.

Krunic finished the year at a career-high ranking of World No.53, improving nearly 100 spots since the end of 2016. With former World No.1 Ana Ivanovic retired and starting her family, and former World No.1 Jelena Jankovic out of the Top 100 due to persistent injuries, the 24-year-old Krunic hopes to lead a Serbian renaissance next year, as she attempts a charge into the Top 50.

Johanna Konta and Aleksandra Krunic (Getty Images)
Johanna Konta (L) shakes hands with Aleksandra Krunic after the match. (Getty Images)

Konta, on the other hand, struggled through the rest of 2017 after her incandescent first half of the year. The US Open defeat to Krunic kicked off a four-match losing streak which would complete her season, as she pulled the plug early on her year because of a nagging foot injury.

While Konta finished her season in the Top Ten for the second consecutive year, she once more missed out on participation at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global by one ranking spot -- this time being pipped at the post by Caroline Garcia after the Frenchwoman’s back-to-back triumphs at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open and the China Open in Beijing.

Konta also ended the year by amicably parting ways with her coach, Wim Fissette. Nevertheless, Konta backed up her breakthrough 2016 with an equally impressive 2017. Similar form, with increased consistency and fewer injuries, could see her 2018 exploits garner even more successes and plaudits.