Johanna Konta of Great Britain returns a shot en route to
winning  the women’s singles final at the CIBC Wood Gundy
Challenger tennis in Winnipeg, Man. Sunday July 28, 2013.

Article courtesy of Kirk Penton, Winnipeg Sun.

Johanna Konta, the woman who captured the inaugural US$25,000 CIBC Wood Gundy Challenger tennis tournament in Winnipeg on Sunday, won a match at the U.S. Open last year and will compete again this fall in the tennis major.

That is a sign of the top-notch talent Winnipeg can attract now that it is in the business of hosting professional tennis tournaments. In fact, the International Tennis Federation asked Tennis Manitoba in December to host the Wood Gundy Challenger after its successful hosting of the ITF’s Manshield Tennis Futures men’s tournament last August.

“The success of that kind of put us on the map of the world tennis scene, and after that we were asked to host a women’s one as well so they could complement each other,” Tennis Manitoba executive director Mark Arndt said Sunday.

The second annual Manshield tournament will be held next month, and CIBC is already on board for another Wood Gundy Challenger next year.

Konta, who is the 139th-ranked women’s player in the world, didn’t lose a set all week at Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club in the 32-woman field. That included her 6-3, 6-1 triumph over fellow Brit Samantha Murray in Sunday’s final under sunny skies and in barely a breath of wind.

Konta, who lost to world No. 16 Jelena Jankovic in the first round of Wimbledon last month, pocketed nearly $4,000 for the win.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Konta, who was the tournament’s No. 1 seed. “Sam and I didn’t play our best tennis today. I took my chances better than she did today, and that’s how I came out on top.”

Nearly 500 spectators were on hand to watch Sunday’s final, and close to 3,000 overall turned out to watch the week’s action. One of Tennis Manitoba’s goals when it comes to hosting pro tournaments is to get its young members even more excited about the sport.

“It’s going to start to happen, and that’s the main premise of having an event like this, to show the youngsters tennis right in your own back yard,” Arndt said. “There’s an awe aspect here when it’s in your own back yard and you can touch these players.”

Konta said Winnipeg was an excellent host.

“It’s a great tournament,” said Konta, who is off to Vancouver for a $100,000 ITF tournament. “I truly believe the people do make a tournament, how helpful they are, and they really have been exceptionally helpful here and very accommodating, so it was a pleasure to play here.”