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Konta maturing like fine wine ahead of Australian Open

She heads into the first major of the year as one of the favourites for the title.

TENNIS 15/01/17 09:17
Konta maturing like fine wine ahead of Australian Open

Johanna Konta describes her tennis career as maturing like a fine wine but the British number one’s champagne moment may still be yet to come.

Konta heads into the Australian Open not just with an outside chance of claiming her first grand slam title but as one of the favourites in an highly unpredictable women’s draw.

She is, after all, the form player here after bulldozing her way to a second WTA title last week in Sydney, brushing aside the resurgent Eugenie Bouchard and then world number three Agnieszka Radwanska in the final.

Konta’s triumph means she will move inside the world’s top 10, to ninth, when the rankings refresh on Monday, two years after starting a season 150th and having never gone past the first round of a major tournament.

Konta said: “I believe I have matured. I believe I’ve gotten better at reinvesting the experiences and the lessons that I’ve learned throughout the years and actually putting them into the situations that I face on the match court.

“I think that has made me a better competitor. But again, I think things like that also take time, like a good wine, so I think it was just about accumulating experiences.”

Konta certainly has fond memories of her last experience in Melbourne, where she reached the semi-finals 12 months ago before falling to eventual champion Angelique Kerber.

Both Kerber, however, and number two seed Serena Williams have made unconvincing starts to the year, opening up the possibility for the likes of Konta to take advantage.

“It is special to come back here,” Konta said. “I’m actually really enjoying also having dinners where I had some of my favourite places where I went last year.

“I’m just really happy that I’m here, I’m healthy, and I’m enjoying playing. That’s what I’m looking forward to, just to compete.”

Konta’s form is all the more remarkable given the upheaval she has endured off the court.

The death of her mind mentor Juan Coto towards the end of last year was followed by a split with Esteban Carril, the Spanish coach who had overseen her rise into the elite.

She replaced Carril with Belgian Wim Fissette, who had previously worked with Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka, and who will be courtside for her opening match against Kirsten Flipkens on Tuesday.

Konta added: “I guess we’re doing well together. But more than that, I’m enjoying learning from him. He comes with just an incredible amount of experience on the tour with some of the best players in the game. I’m really keeping my ears open and trying to be a sponge, really just trying to absorb as much as I can from him.”

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