Sabalenka advances in Lexington as WTA Tour returns to US

Konta, who suffered a first round loss, looked uncomfortable and kept holding two fingers to her neck to check her pulse before eventually resuming play.

Sabalenka fired off eight aces and saved 11 of 15 break points in the win. (FILE IMAGE)   -  Twitter @WTA

Aryna Sabalenka fended off Madison Brengle 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-2 on Monday to advance to the second round of the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky, the first WTA Tour event in the United States since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the circuit in March.

World number 11 Sabalenka, who defeated two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in Doha in February, fired off eight aces and saved 11 of 15 break points in the win over the American.

Rounding out the day's action at the outdoor, hardcourt tournament, Czech Republic's Marie Bouzkova upset world number 15 Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-4.

Konta suffered a health scare and requested medical attention just a few minutes into her loss to the unseeded Bouzkova.

The 29-year-old Briton looked uncomfortable and kept holding two fingers to her neck to check her pulse before eventually resuming play.

Konta later explained that she is prone to sudden palpitations that can send her heart rate soaring.

“My heart rate shoots up for no reason, we didn't have a long point, I wasn't gassing in any way in my lungs,” Konta said.

“It makes me a bit lightheaded, I just had to see the doctor and the physio.

“I was having all the checks. I am as fit as a fiddle but it can happen. It took a while to settle down until about 4-3 in the first set, but then it did settle down and I was able to concentrate on the tennis.”

Konta said it was the fourth time she had been affected by the problem during tournament play or practice.

“We don't know why it happens, it's in stressful situations, in non-stressful situations. It's been sporadic and we haven't been able to capture it. I get very lightheaded and I can't function for the first few seconds,” she said.

“I am worried. It's not ideal. I am going to have another EKG (electrocardiography) test, and hopefully measure it. But probably now it won't happen again for another year or something."

Serena Williams is expected to return to competition for the first time since the novel coronavirus outbreak on Tuesday with a first-round clash against fellow American Bernarda Pera.

Her sister Venus, a seven-times Grand Slam winner, will face off against two-time Australian Open champ Victoria Azarenka.

American teens Amanda Anisimova and Coco Gauff are also playing on Tuesday. Gauff, who rocketed to fame after defeating Venus Williams at last year's Wimbledon, plays Caroline Dolehide while Anisimova faces compatriot Catherine Bellis.

The Cincinnati Masters is scheduled to be played at Flushing Meadows, New York from next week, followed by the U.S. Open, also at its usual Flushing Meadows home, from Aug. 31-Sept. 13.

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