Konta can look up after neck recovers
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.