Konta keen to turn the ta­bles on Toml­janovic

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT -

JO KONTA’S open­ing round at the Aus­tralian Open pits her against some­one who has made the op­po­site jour­ney in life.

The British No. 1 spent the first half of her life in Aus­tralia be­fore head­ing to Europe while Ajla Toml­janovic was head­ing the other way, born and raised in Croa­tia be­fore head­ing Down Un­der and fi­nally gain­ing cit­i­zen­ship a year ago.

Toml­janovic is known not just for her rank­ing of 47, but also for be­ing the long­stand­ing girl­friend of her adopted coun­try’s high­est pro­file player, Nick Kyr­gios.

This will be of scant rel­e­vance when they meet on the sec­ond day of the sea­son’s first Grand Slam, with Konta the only one of the eight British sin­gles play­ers here not fea­tur­ing on the Mon­day.

More of an is­sue could be the fact the British player had to pull out of the Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional af­ter a strange se­ries of events caused by a sud­den in­jury to her neck.

Konta re­tired from the sec­ond qual­i­fy­ing round there, but was then given a “lucky loser” slot, only to then pull out of the of­fi­cial first round when the in­jury failed to clear up as ex­pected.

“I was warm­ing up and my neck just seized up – I couldn’t turn left and I couldn’t look up so that made it par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult to hit nor­mal strokes and also serve,” she said.

“It was just a bit of a ran­dom thing and un­for­tu­nate, but I can look up now!

“It’s pretty much al­most com­pletely nor­mal. I can live with this. You don’t re­alise how much you use your neck un­til you can’t use it.”

Konta be­gan the sea­son in Bris­bane with a big win over Sloane Stephens but then lost to the same Toml­janovic who she now faces.

“I don’t know if you guys have no­ticed but I seem to play the same play­ers, usu­ally, we sort of do a ro­ta­tion,” she said.

“It’s a great op­por­tu­nity for me to play some­one I’ve just lost to who played very well and for me to try to do bet­ter, to try to im­me­di­ately learn from how that match went.”

Konta has of­ten played well at this event, reach­ing a semi­fi­nal and quar­ter-fi­nal in 2016 and 2017 re­spec­tively.

Her sec­ond round loss a year ago was the pre­cur­sor to a rel­a­tively lack­lus­tre sea­son which saw her fin­ish 39th in the world.

There have been ten­ta­tive signs of a pick-up in form as she be­gins work­ing with an­other new coach, French­man Dim­itri Zavialoff, who has been con­cen­trat­ing on try­ing to help her think more clearly about her match strat­egy rather than re­ly­ing on in­stinct.

“A lot of the work that we’re do­ing is not go­ing to nec­es­sar­ily have im­me­di­ate ef­fect,” she said.

“Like with any­thing, it takes time to make it a habit and one you don’t have to think about.”

Four British men and three women were due to be in ac­tion on the open­ing day, as they all found them­selves in the bot­tom half of the sin­gles draws: Andy Mur­ray, Kyle Ed­mund, Dan Evans, Cam Nor­rie, Har­riet Dart, Heather Wat­son and Katie Boul­ter.

Jo­hanna Konta.

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