Johanna Konta fights back to beat Madison Keys in Brisbane and get her 2018 off to a winning start

New 12 months, new coach, new starting. Johanna Konta put her disappointing end to final 12 months firmly behind her right here on Monday as a Four-6, 6-Four, 6-Three victory over Madison Keys in the primary spherical of the Brisbane International gave the 26-year-old Briton a good start to her 2018 marketing campaign.

With her new coach, Michael Joyce, watching approvingly from the stands, Konta defied the sweltering circumstances to report her first aggressive victory for 4 and a half months in a high-quality encounter full of excellent shot-making.

It was a perfect start to the brand new 12 months for Konta after her 2017 season had ended in such disappointing style. The world No 9 didn’t win a match after mid-August, completed her season early due to a foot downside and then parted firm with her coach, Wim Fissette, earlier than recruiting Joyce.

The American, who made his title working with Maria Sharapova, may hardly have wished for a higher start. Keys, the world No 19, who was runner-up ultimately 12 months’s US Open, represented a main problem in Konta’s first match of the brand new season, however the Briton got here by it in emphatic style after a hard-hitting contest that lasted two hours and seven minutes.

“I think both of us going into it knew it was a tough match to have in the first round of any tournament,” Konta stated afterwards.  “I knew going into it that I used to be going to be going through a robust opponent. I used to be really excited to play once more. Obviously, I have not performed for a short while.

“To get the chance to play such a high-quality match so early on is only a good thing to me, so I’m very happy with that. And to be able to come through in a three-set match and to get that much court time, it’s a good thing.”

Keys was proud of her personal efficiency and stated the match had featured some “damn good tennis”. The American added: “I believe if I performed the best way that I performed in opposition to most individuals right now, I in all probability would have received. She occurred to be higher. She was too good.

“She didn’t miss for a set and a half, so that didn’t help. She was also returning well and put a lot of pressure on me. She was serving really well. She just played really, really solid and didn’t really give me much.”

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Konta had not received a match since August (Getty)

The temperature was 33C when the match began simply after 3pm on a sometimes scorching and steamy Brisbane afternoon. Given the excessive humidity and the dearth of breeze, this was all the time going to be a take a look at of stamina and bodily conditioning in addition to ability.

Konta, who spent the primary 13 years of her life in Sydney, often handles the warmth higher than most. Although the Briton took time to discover her rhythm, she by no means seemed unduly troubled by the circumstances.

“It was very humid out there,” she stated afterwards. “I have my protocol that I follow to try and stay in the best form that I can, hydrating well, making sure that I keep my energy levels up, but it’s not easy for anyone out there.”

Both girls are formidable ball-strikers. Keys hit twice as many winners as Konta (37 to 18), however the Briton made fewer unforced errors (20 to 35) and her superior motion often informed in the longer rallies.

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Keys reached the ultimate of the 2017 US Open (Getty)

Konta recovered from Zero-40 down to maintain serve in the sixth sport of the opening set, however at Four-5 was unable to defend a second set level as Keys adopted up a daring return with a forehand winner.

However, Konta struck the ball extra constantly in the second set and at 2-2 began to flip the match round by breaking Keys to love. Having served out to degree the match, Konta broke to love once more in the opening sport of the deciding set. At 5-Three she closed out victory with one other break of function a thumping backhand return pressured Keys into an error.

Konta, who now performs Ajla Tomljanovic, stated: “I knew that I was going to have opportunities to work my way into points and work my way into rallies and to string them together. I just trusted in my strength to be able to be out there as long as I needed to kind of bully my way into the match.”

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Tomljanovic awaits Konta in the following spherical (Getty)

Asked if her run of defeats on the finish of final season had been on her thoughts going into the match, Konta stated: “Obviously you do take confidence and you do take match health from coming by matches, from winning matches, and for those who undergo a interval the place you aren’t ready to do this, clearly it’s a little harder to really feel that assertive. I undoubtedly went by that.

“For sure it feels good to come through a match like that, especially in three sets and especially against someone like her. But I never lost faith in my ability. I think every player goes through periods in their career, multiple times, where things aren’t turning out the way that you want them to.”

Petra Kvitova’s withdrawal from the event due to sickness noticed Heather Watson earn a place in the primary draw as a “lucky loser”, however the Briton, who misplaced in the ultimate spherical of qualifying, was unable to reap the benefits of her second likelihood and was overwhelmed 6-Zero, 6-Three by Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit.

Ryan Harrison will likely be Andy Murray’s first opponent right here later this week after the American beat Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer 6-Four, Three-6, 6-2. Murray, who has a first-round bye, received his solely earlier assembly with Harrison on the Australian Open six years in the past.


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