Having seemingly found fitness at just the right time, could 2020 be the year Johanna Konta finally ends her quest for major tournament silverware?
Last year was Konta’s most successful season to date, particularly in Grand Slam competitions. Two quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the U.S Open came in between a breakthrough season on clay which saw the Brit make it all the way to the semis at Roland Garros.
Despite returning to the top 20 of the WTA rankings and finding the form and consistency which had been noticeably absent during much of the 2018 season, recurring knee issues have plagued Konta for the past few months. Suffering from a case of tendinitis, she has required extensive strength and conditioning work since the end of September and admitted the injury had been affecting her since the beginning of January 2019.
The extent of Konta's recovery is not certain at this point, but the British number one has travelled to Australia with the intention of playing events in Brisbane and Adelaide before the Australian Open begins on the 14th January.
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How realistic are Grand Slam aspirations so soon after injury though? Whilst hard-court is still generally considered to be Konta’s best surface, the 2019 Australian Open was her worst slam performance of the year, losing in three sets to Garbine Muguruza. That match was a marathon of epic proportions that didn’t finish until 3 am local time, yet when you combine the blistering heat of the Adelaide sunshine with persistent knee problems, the prospect of winning your first Grand Slam silverware doesn’t seem particularly inviting.
Let’s not forget however, that the Sydney born athlete has a history of success at this very competition. In her first appearance in 2016, Konta reached the semi-finals before losing to Serena Williams in the quarter-final a year later. If not in a good place physically, she is definitely there mentally now, and of course, she has two tournaments to play to rediscover the form that has seen her climb to number 12 in the rankings.
If Konta is to end her silverware draught then she faces some difficult competition. Serena Williams is returning from injuries of her own and will start the tournament as the bookies favourite, whilst it would also be favourable to avoid being the same side of the draw as a home favourite and current world number one Ashleigh Barty.
Konta starts the year in Brisbane on Monday as the 7th seed, where she will face Czech player Barbora Strycova in the first round. Deep runs in each of these next two WTA ranking events could boost her overall chances of Melbourne glory, but before even pondering form, fatigue and the draw itself, the question that really needs addressing is will her knees hold up?News Now - Sport News