Konta can look up after neck re­cov­ers

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Tennis - By Si­mon Briggs Proud record: Johanna Konta has won 10 of 13 matches at the Aus­tralian Open

For­mer Aus­tralian Open semi-fi­nal­ist Johanna Konta says she is glad that things are look­ing up – quite lit­er­ally – since she ar­rived in Mel­bourne last week.

Konta had per­formed an un­usual dou­ble-with­drawal ma­noeu­vre in Syd­ney last week, pulling out of two matches on suc­ces­sive days be­cause of a frozen neck. But a change of geo­graph­i­cal state, from New South Wales to Vic­to­ria, has been matched by a mirac­u­lous im­prove­ment in her health.

“It was quite un­for­tu­nate,” said Konta. “I was warm­ing up be­fore my fi­nal qual­i­fy­ing match and my neck just kind of 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.

“I got a lucky loser [mean­ing that some­one pulled out of the main draw, clear­ing a space for her] but I was sched­uled the next day and it wasn’t any bet­ter – and it wasn’t any bet­ter on the Tues­day ei­ther.

“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. I’m very happy about that but you don’t re­alise how much you use your neck un­til you can’t use it.”

The freak in­jury sapped Konta’s mo­men­tum after she had made a promis­ing start to the sea­son, beat­ing the for­mer US Open cham­pion Sloane Stephens in her open­ing match in Bris­bane.

But she can at least take heart from her ex­cel­lent record at the Aus­tralian Open, the tour­na­ment she used to watch as an am­bi­tious school­girl in Syd­ney. She has won 10 of her 13 matches in the main draw here – which in­cludes suc­cesses over Venus Wil­liams and last year’s cham­pion Caro­line Woz­ni­acki – while her only un­ex­pected re­verse came against the Croa­t­ianamer­i­can Bernarda Pera a year ago.

Now she will play a Croa­t­ianaus­tralian in Ajla Toml­janovic, who beat her in Bris­bane a fort­night ago, but whose rank­ing of No 47 means that Konta (No38) should be the favourite on paper.

“I don’t know if you guys have no­ticed but I seem to play the same play­ers, usu­ally,” joked Konta. “I gen­er­ally play a hand­ful of play­ers per year and then we do a ro­ta­tion. So I’m not re­ally sur­prised. It’s a great op­por­tu­nity for me to play some­one I’ve just lost to, and try to learn from how that match went.”

Toml­janovic is a streaky player who goes for her shots but can be er­ratic. She will also have to deal with the pres­sure of per­form­ing in front of her home crowd – which tends to in­spire some play­ers while in­hibit­ing oth­ers. Her record at Mel­bourne Park stands at two wins from six at­tempts.

The match is sched­uled first on Court 3 and should start soon after mid­night UK time tonight.

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