The perils of being under-cooked coming into a Slam was there for all to see as the British No. 1 Johanna Konta was bounced out in her earliest main draw exit at the Australian Open. Having admitted she had been managing a knee injury all last year, the Brit had played just one match this season, having shut her year down after the US Open.
To draw Ons Jabeur in the opening round led to a pragmatic admission that if she lost it would not be the end of the world, and Jabeur showed why she really should be ranked a lot higher. She can mix things up and disrupt rhythm – all the things Konta needs to be at her most effective.
Konta showed flashes of the aggressive game that had previously taken her to the semi-finals in Melbourne, but with so little play behind her, and against an opponent who is very quick to punish anything short, it was a real hiding to nothing for the Brit.
She told reporters: “It’s an unfortunate thing. It’s part of the sport and it’s part of also the way I play, and it’s something that will come with time and matches. I think ultimately the main thing was to start playing again, and I am. And how I physically felt out there is obviously a massive tick for me compared to where I was in September of last year.
“Before Brisbane, I had been out for almost, yeah, four, four-and-a-half months. So it’s been quite a bit of time, not far off getting a protected ranking. I think giving myself that time to find a level that I want to play is going to be important. And, yeah, I mean, I also played a very good opponent (smiling). So, you know, it’s not all on my racquet.”
There are some positives to take out of the experience – Konta played the match without any precautionary tape on the niggling knee and added that it had felt ok, as she now contemplates the year’s schedule.
“It’s always difficult to come back after not playing a certain amount of time. But what was good today was my knee felt quite good, and it was actually even better than Brisbane. That’s a very positive thing for me, especially for where I was in September. That’s a big positive, and something that I’m very pleased about moving forward.”
While it was a long trip for just two matches, the rest of the season might now shape up better, especially with Konta’s decision not to play Fed Cup this year, an Olympic year.
Regarding her tournaments, she said: “I know I’m currently entered into Dubai, Doha, and Monterrey, but then obviously seeing if maybe St. Petersburg or maybe not. I don’t know. I’m not entered there so it’s just a question of wildcards, that kind of question. So I don’t know yet. And then how many, all of them, only a few of them? Yeah, we won’t make that decision today.”
Play continues at the Australian Open on Day Three, starting at 11am (Midnight GMT).
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