Johanna Konta has had to battle through six tough sets over the past two days in Brisbane but the British world No. 9 assured she is grateful for the time spent on court as she acknowledges the tough period she had end of last year has left her lacking some match fitness.
Konta followed up her 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Madison Keys in the opening round on Monday with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 success over Croatia’s Ajla Tomljanovic on Tuesday to reach the quarter-finals of the Brisbane International.
The 26-year-old Konta admits she had problems both on the court and off it at the end of 2017, that saw her finish the season on a five-match losing streak.
The British No. 1 believes her problems are behind her now as she looks to regain the fine form that helped her make the Wimbledon semi-finals and win Miami last year.
“Some of the things that I was dealing with end of last year, also off the court and just generally emotionally and physically even, with certain things, they have obviously resolved themselves,” Konta said on Tuesday after her difficult triumph over Tomljanovic.
“However, there’s still some work to be done this period of the year because obviously I didn’t have too many wins under my belt end of last year. So I’m obviously working on accumulating that match fitness again. So to have these two three-set matches is a really good thing for me. Because both matches were full of all sorts of difficult situations and parts in the match where I really had to be physically, or mentally, or both just really tough out there”
Konta struggled to find the same rhythm at the start and had difficulty protecting her usually dominant serve.
Tomljanovic broke Konta’s serve four times, meaning when she held for just the second time herself, it was enough to take the first set.
But then Konta kicked into gear, finding her range on serve while still causing damage on her opponent’s, and won the second set 6-1.
She was having a comfortable time in the final set until a late rally from the Croatian, but Konta eventually served it out at the second attempt to set up a last-eight meeting with Elina Svitolina or Ana Konjuh.
On her part, Tomljanovic — a finalist at Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in Dubai last month — was not 100 per cent physically throughout the match but was pleased with her level nonetheless.
“I just felt a little strain, I went one point wide and it didn’t really feel too comfortable but I stayed out there and played the match. Retiring wasn’t really an option for me today and I think I did my best considering. I stayed out there so there’s really no excuses for anything, I was outplayed,” said Tomljanovic, who spent 13 months out of action with a shoulder injury before returning to tennis last March.
“Honestly, coming out today, I expected to play well because I’ve been training well. I’ve had good wins over the last couple of months, going deep into tournaments, even though they’re not the same level like here but I just believed in my ability. But I feel like my tennis is kind of improving faster than my body a little bit, which is frustrating, but I’ve got nothing to be sad about.
“I’m disappointed because I obviously wanted to win and I love playing here but looking ahead, I’m just pleased with where my game is going. Just hopefully I stay as healthy as possible.”
Roger Federer and Karen Khachanov almost reenacted their Halle semi-final from last year when they faced off in the Hopman Cup on Tuesday in a clash that saw the Swiss edge past the Russian NextGen player 6-3, 7-6 (8) in Perth.
Their previous showdown in Halle ended 6-4, 7-6 (5) in Federer’s favour, with Khachanov stepping up his game significantly in the second set on both occasions, but ultimately surrendering to the 19-time Grand Slam champion.
“I thought the intensity was great, the level was very high too,” said Federer, who together with Swiss partner Belinda Bencic wrapped up a 3-0 win over the Russian team of Khachanov and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
“Karen got off to a really great start, me too actually, to be quite honest. We fought hard in the beginning for the first four games, and at the end I was up. He put me under pressure early on and then we caught a great spell on our serves, it was a bit of serving an exhibition after that for probably 45 minutes or so.
“And then at the end there were some minor chances and the tiebreaker was close. It had a bit of everything. It was a good to play a tiebreaker, this kind, early on in the season, to get through those nervy situations, with the pulse up high, and you’re sweaty and you’re trying to figure it out. It was a good match overall so I’m very happy with my performance.”
“You can call me ‘Dr. Federer’ if you want to…” 😂
— Hopman Cup (@hopmancup) January 2, 2018
Khachanov showed some impressive form with blistering groundstrokes that sometimes took Federer by surprise.
“I think it was quite a good level, so still I need to work on some things that I don’t feel well but overall I think it was a good fight, that’s what you need at the beginning of the year, these kind of matches I think to get into it,” said the 198cm 21-year-old.
“It was very similar (to our match in Halle), it was again a close match, close second set, similar scenario in the first set. Still I made some mistakes in my game and I need to keep working on it.”
Looking ahead, Khachanov said he has set himself quite high targets in 2018.
“Goals are always high, you know you want to achieve as much as possible,” said the world No. 45.
Meanwhile, Bencic continues to show glimpses of her previous top-10 form as she hit 38 winners to down the 15th-ranked Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. The 20-year-old ended her 2017 season with 15 consecutive victories, picking up titles in Taipei, Thailand and Dubai.
Switzerland 3 – 0 Russia
Men’s singles: Roger Federer (SUI) bt Karen Khachanov (RUS) 6-3, 7-6 (8)
Women’s singles: Belinda Bencic (SUI) bt Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 6-1, 3-6, 6-3
Mixed doubles: Bencic/Federer (SUI) bt Pavlyuchenkova/Khachanov (RUS) 4-3 (1), 3-4 (3), 4-1
The Austrian had a solid weekend in the UAE capital, where he lost a tight match to Kevin Anderson on Friday before defeating Pablo Carreno Busta on Saturday.
Thiem is the top seed in Doha this week and will be targeting a maiden Grand Slam success at the Australian Open this month.
Check out the video above to see how fared in the Sport360 Arabic test.