Australian Open: Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Dan Evans & Heather Watson play on day three

Dan Evans

2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Britons Dan Evans and Heather Watson are looking to progress in the Australian Open on Wednesday after only Harriet Dart survived day two.

Evans, seeded 30th, plays Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka, with defending champion Novak Djokovic possibly awaiting the winner in the third round.

Watson, ranked 75th, meets Kristyna Pliskova in her first-round match.

The pair were scheduled to meet on Tuesday but the match was postponed because of a backlog.

Evans, 29, is the only Briton left in the men’s singles after Kyle Edmund and Cameron Norrie lost on Tuesday.

The British number one, who fought from two sets down to beat American Mackenzie McDonald on Monday, meets Nishioka second on court 19 at about 02:00 GMT.

Watson, 27, is hoping to join qualifier Dart in the second round after Johanna Konta and Katie Boulter were also beaten on Tuesday.

She opens against Czech world number 64 Pliskova – twin sister of second seed Karolina – on court 12 at 00:00 GMT.

Djokovic is among a star-studded line-up on Rod Laver Arena, taking on Japanese wildcard Tatsuma Ito in his second-round match.

Australian world number one Ashleigh Barty, who is aiming to become the home nation’s first singles champion for 42 years, and Czech 2019 runner-up Petra Kvitova also play in the day session.

American legend Serena Williams continues her quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title by opening the evening session against Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek, before Swiss great Roger Federer rounds off the night on the 15,000-seat show court, facing Serb Filip Krajinovic.

Wednesday’s order of play on Rod Laver Arena
Day session starts at 00:00 GMT
Paula Badosa (Spa) v Petra Kvitova (Cze) [7]
Ashleigh Barty (Aus) v Polona Hercog (Slo)
Tatsuma Ito (Jpn) v Novak Djokovic (Ser) [2]
Night session starts at 08:00 GMT
Tamara Zidansek (Slo) v Serena Williams (US) [8]
Filip Krajinovic (Ser) v Roger Federer (Swi) [3]

Nishioka just as tough as Djokovic right now – Evans

Evans is no stranger to playing the biggest names on the biggest stage, having faced Federer at both the Australian Open and US Open last year.

The Briton, playing his first Slam as a seed, will meet 16-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic for the first time in his career if both men win on Wednesday.

First Evans must overcome world number 71 Nishioka, who is looking to reach the last 32 at a major for the first time.

“I have to play Nishioka first and if I do get there it’s a good match, another good opportunity.

“It’s obviously a difficult match but Nishioka’s just as tough right now.

“It’s a good thing to have waiting if I win.”

Evans has lost both of his two previous meetings with the Japanese left-hander, including a 6-4 6-1 defeat at the Washington Open in August.

“If I’m being totally honest I had a real bad mental performance last time,” Evans said.

“It was just before I split with my coach [David Felgate] so I wouldn’t read too much into the last one.”

Watson hopes new love can inspire change of Grand Slam fortunes

British number two Watson says she is going into the Australian Open feeling “happy on and off the court”, believing her new relationship with Yeovil Town footballer Courtney Duffus has particularly contributed to her improved results.

Watson is hoping to end a miserable run at the Grand Slams – and the Australian Open, in particular – by beating Pliskova.

“He’s super positive. I don’t like boys to have too much influence over me but he has really been a good influence,” a smiling Watson told reporters.

Watson has won only two main-draw Grand Slam matches in the past two years, with just one victory in her past six appearances in the main draw in Melbourne.

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Australian Open: Johanna Konta loses to Ons Jabeur in first round

johanna konta

2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

British number one Johanna Konta made her earliest exit from the Australian Open main draw by losing to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in the first round.

Konta, seeded 12th, was beaten 6-4 6-2 by the tricky world number 78 at Melbourne Park.

The 28-year-old was playing only her second match in almost five months because of a knee injury.

Konta struggled to settle as Jabeur knocked out Britain’s highest-ranked player.

Five other Britons play later on Tuesday, which features a packed schedule with 96 first-round matches needing to be completed after the opening day was washed out by heavy rain.

British number three Kyle Edmund will shortly resume his match against Serbia’s 24th seed Dusan Lajovic with a 5-2 lead.

Fellow Britons Katie Boulter, Heather Watson, Harriet Dart and Cameron Norrie should also play as planned with a much-improved weather forecast.

More to follow.

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GB’s Evans fights back to win in five sets

Dan Evans

2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

British number one Dan Evans came back from two sets down for the first time to beat American Mackenzie McDonald and reach the Australian Open second round.

Evans, playing his first Grand Slam as a seed, looked edgy in the first two sets on a packed outside court, showing his frustration at times.

But the 30th seed settled down to win 3-6 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-3 in Melbourne.

Fellow Britons Johanna Konta and Kyle Edmund play later on the opening day of the first Grand Slam of the year.

Evans’ victory sets up a second-round match against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.

If the 29-year-old wins that then he could face 16-time Grand Slam winner and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the third round.

Evans ends run at 15th attempt

Evans had never won a five-set match after losing the opening two, finally ending that run at the 15th attempt against a tiring McDonald.

A pinpoint forehand winner down the line, on his first match point, sealed the Briton’s place in the second round following a battle lasting three hours and 21 minutes.

Evans has the luxury of avoiding the big names in the early rounds of the men’s draw after climbing to a career-high 32nd in the latest ATP rankings released on Monday.

But he was made to work hard by 129th-ranked McKenzie, a talented player who has slipped down the rankings after an injury-hit 2018.

Evans was tight in the opening two sets and was seemingly distracted by fans standing in the aisles because they could not find an empty seat.

“I was frustrated. I wasn’t playing my game, hitting the ball in,” Evans said.

“I was impatient at the start and trying to come in too early.”

After lacking patience and precision as he seemingly stared at defeat, Evans suddenly found the form which has propelled him up the rankings over the past 18 months.

A more positive approach started to pay off as McDonald, playing only his second tournament since last May after having surgery on a hamstring tendon, started to struggle.

Evans twice broke the American’s serve early on in the third and fourth sets and, after needing to dig deep again in a fifth set where the players exchanged six breaks, came through.

“I just hung in, I thought my level was there somewhere,” the Briton said.

“I changed my game a little bit, started making few more balls and in the end I was pretty strong.”

Evans pointed to his stomach on his way to shaking hands with McDonald, a gesture seemingly directed at Britain’s former world number four Tim Henman.

After bonding with Evans in his role as British captain at the ATP Cup, Henman jokingly suggesting at the end of the tournament Evans needed to “miss a few meals” if he wanted to break into the world’s top 20.

“It was just a joke, there was nothing in it,” Evans laughed when asked about his gesture.

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Teenager Gauff beats Williams at Grand Slam again

Coco Gauff

2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

American 15-year-old Coco Gauff proved last year’s victory over Venus Williams was no fluke when she beat the seven-time Grand Slam champion once again to reach the Australian Open second round.

Gauff announced her arrival last July with victory over her “idol” Williams, 39, in the Wimbledon first round.

And just like last time, she did it in straight sets, winning 7-6 (7-5) 6-3.

Gauff’s celebrations were slightly delayed because she did not realise the final point had been given her way.

“That was really difficult. She played really well and I was really nervous for today’s match – I was a bit shocked when I saw the draw, but glad I was able to get through it,” said Gauff, who was making her Australian Open debut.

“I am feeling great. I really like this court and really like this crowd.”

Gauff will play Romanian world number 74 Sorana Cirstea next.

More to follow.

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Australian Open: Dan Evans fights back to reach second round

Dan Evans

2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

British number one Dan Evans had to do it the hard way to win his Australian Open first-round match, fighting back to beat American Mackenzie McDonald in a five-set scrap.

Evans, playing his first Grand Slam as a seeded player, was tight as he lost the opening two sets.

But the 30th seed settled down to win 3-6 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-3 in Melbourne.

Fellow Britons Johanna Konta and Kyle Edmund play later on the opening day of the first Grand Slam of the year.

More to follow.

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Australian Open: Naomi Osaka through to second round

Naomi Osaka

2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Naomi Osaka began the defence of her Australian Open title with a straight-sets win over Czech Marie Bouzkova.

The Japanese third seed won 6-2 6-4 in convincing style in the opening match on Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.

Osaka was in strong form – even breaking the net with one of her serves – as she booked a second-round encounter with China’s Saisai Zheng.

Favourite Serena Williams opens her campaign on Monday, with world number one Ashleigh Barty also in action.

Osaka is joined in the second round by Croatian 13th seed Petra Martic, who beat American Christina McHale 6-3 6-0 and will face 2018 Wimbledon semi-finalist Julia Goerges of Germany next.

The opening Grand Slam of the year went ahead as scheduled on Monday after air quality improved in Melbourne.

Last week’s qualifying event had been disrupted by delays because of the air pollution caused by widespread bushfires.

Net being repaired

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Kiki Bertens column: I considered retiring at 25 because I wasn’t having fun on court

Kiki Bertens

Kiki Bertens, the Dutch world number 10, is the latest WTA Tour star to feature in a BBC Sport column at a Grand Slam. In her first column at the Australian Open, the 2016 French Open semi-finalist talks about how she almost retired before going on to enjoy the biggest successes of her career, the air quality in Melbourne and getting married in the off-season.

At the end of the 2017 season I was on the brink of retirement and I had a decision to make: quit playing or do things differently.

I chose to do things differently – with my approach to practice, recovery, nutrition and many other things.

As a result I reached the world’s top 10 for the first time in 2018 and won three WTA tournaments. So I guess I made the right decision!

Why was I considering retirement at the age of just 25? Because I really wasn’t having fun on court.

I was still winning matches and I was ranked 31 in the world at the end of the year so it was still going pretty well. But I was struggling a lot.

Going through the tour every year and just focusing so intensely on tennis all the time was not working for me. I had to find another way.

I was stressing too much about everything, stressing about draws, stressing about how I was practising.

If one day I did not have a good practice I was worrying a lot about how I’d play over the next few days.

Now, I still work really hard every day, of course, and do everything I can do. But off the court I relax a little more, enjoy my time with the people around me – my husband, my family and the other girls – then go again the next day.

I have changed my work-life balance for the better.

And I don’t worry as much. I think ‘OK, one day I play good, the other day maybe not’. There is always a next day.

I have realised it is more important to be happy and enjoying the life you are living – win or lose.

‘I never thought I’d reach the world’s top 10’

After deciding not to retire and carry on, I reached the world’s top 10 for the first time in 2018 and won three WTA tournaments. So I guess I came a long way.

For me it was always a huge thing to become top 10 because I’d never really seen myself being able to achieve that dream.

Then last year I won the Madrid Open – my biggest title yet – and was the first woman to win the tournament without dropping a set.

As a result I went up to fourth in the world and that meant I became the highest-ranked female player from the Netherlands ever. That was a huge thing for me and a huge deal back home.

I never thought I’d go as far as this. After doing that, everything is a bonus from now and I am enjoying it all as much as possible.

Of course I still put pressure on myself and I’m still setting goals that I want to achieve.

Kiki Bertens

Improving my game by trying to play more aggressively is the main one and hopefully make steps in the rankings and the big tournaments as a result.

The furthest I have gone at the Australian Open is the third round so hopefully I can do better than that this year.

I like it here and always feel good, so I don’t exactly know why I haven’t gone further in Melbourne.

Perhaps it is because normally I start to play better when I have played a lot of matches. At the beginning of the year that is a little bit of a struggle, I still have to find rhythm.

I played some great matches in Brisbane earlier this month, where I lost to Naomi Osaka in the singles quarter-finals and also reached the doubles final with Ashleigh Barty.

So I think I’m ready and excited to see what happens.

‘People are suffering so much because of the bushfires – it is heartbreaking’

Of course I have been following the news about the bushfires that have been happening in Australia – it is heartbreaking to see so much devastation.

They are suffering so much here and I feel really bad for the people and animals.

Ash Barty – who is, of course, Australia’s world number one – is my regular doubles partner and she donated her prize money from the Brisbane International to the relief fund.

That got me thinking that I wanted to do something so I said I would donate 100 Australian dollars for every ace that I hit in the tournaments over the Australian summer.

I know it is only a small part but I wanted to get involved because it is something that is close to my heart, particularly because I’m so close to Ash.

Kike Bertens (left) and Ashleigh Barty

The air quality in Melbourne has been a big talking point and when I arrived here on Tuesday night I saw the conditions were not great.

I think it was really tough for the players to play qualifying matches in that.

I had a hit on Wednesday morning when it was still not great but I only had a light hit so I didn’t have any problems with my lungs or my breathing.

But I can imagine if you’re playing for two, or two and a half, hours it is not really healthy.

I know the Australian Open is doing the best they can to find a way to overcome any problems, for them it is also a new situation. I think they are monitoring it really well.

They just have to go day by day, see what they have to do and we all hope there will be no problems.

‘I had another big match in the off-season… my wedding!’

The off-season was also pretty busy for me away from tennis – I got married!

My husband Remko is in the tennis world too, he is a physio, a fitness trainer and a coach, and he is also part of my team.

We have known each other for four years now and he proposed at the end of the 2018 season.

I was not really expecting him to propose when he did, even though he knew I really wanted it because I told him many times! So it was a big surprise.

Then all through the year we were building up to the big day and it was really exciting.

Kiki Bertens wedding

We got married at home in Breda where we live, we had a ceremony with only our close family then in the day and at night we had a fun party with more people coming for that.

A few of my friends from the WTA Tour were there – Julia Goerges is one of my closest friends so she was there for the whole day, Johanna Larsson as well, and then lots of Dutch and Belgian tennis faces were there at night.

It goes without saying, the day was really special. Now I hope married life will bring me good luck on the court too!

Kiki Bertens was speaking to BBC Sport’s Jonathan Jurejko at Melbourne Park.

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Konta leads British challenge in Melbourne

British number one Johanna Konta

2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

British number one Johanna Konta says she is not concerned by a lack of court time before launching her Australian Open campaign on Monday.

Konta, seeded 12th, faces tricky Tunisian Ons Jabeur, while compatriots Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund also play on the opening day in Melbourne.

Konta, 28, has only played one match since September’s US Open because of a knee injury.

“I am in a position to compete – that’s why I am here,” she said.

As well as the British players, there will be a host of star names in action when the first Grand Slam of the new season starts on Monday.

Japan’s Naomi Osaka, the defending women’s champion, opens up on Rod Laver Arena before American great Serena Williams, Swiss legend Roger Federer, Australia’s world number one Ashleigh Barty and Serbian defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic also play their openers on Melbourne Park’s 15,000-capacity main show court.

Coco Gauff – the 15-year-old who took Wimbledon by storm last year – faces 39-year-old fellow American Venus Williams in the standout match on Margaret Court Arena.

That is a rematch of their first-round meeting at the All England Club, which saw Gauff announce her arrival on the world’s biggest stage by beating the seven-time Grand Slam champion in straight sets.

Monday’s order of play on Rod Laver Arena
Day session starts at 11:00 local time (00:00 GMT, Sunday)
Naomi Osaka (Jpn) [3] v Marie Bouzkova (Cze)
Anastasia Potapova (Rus) v Serena Williams [8] (US)
Steve Johnson (US) v Roger Federer (Swi) [3]
Night session starts at 19:00 local time (08:00 GMT)
Ashleigh Barty (Aus) [1] v Lesia Tsurenko (Ukr)
Jan-Lennard Struff (Ger) v Novak Djokovic (Ser) [2]

‘I’m happy to be back in the swing of things’

Former Australian Open semi-finalist Konta has been managing the knee problem – a tendonitis-like inflammation – since the latter stages of last season.

She did not play again after losing to Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina in the US Open quarter-finals, making her return in Brisbane last week with a three-set defeat by Czech Barbora Strycova.

Konta meets Jabeur, who is ranked 85th but causes problems for opponents with her variety, last on 1573 Arena at about 19:00 local time (08:00 GMT).

“Having played only one tournament in the past four months, I’m really happy to be back in the swing of things,” Konta, who reached the Melbourne last four in 2016, told BBC Sport.

“Overall, I think practice is going well. I feel I am continuously building and getting better.”

British men’s number one Evans, 29, is seeded at a Grand Slam for the first time after breaking into the world’s top 30.

That means he cannot play one of the big names until the third round – when he is projected to face 16-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic.

Dan Evans

First, Evans must get past American world number 132 Mackenzie McDonald, who he faces on court 14 at 11:00 local time (00:00 GMT, Sunday).

“Being seeded feels no different really, I just have to concentrate on my first match and hopefully get a win there. I can’t do more than that,” Evans said.

“I need to focus on the job in hand.

“It is obviously a great feeling to know you can’t play one of the top guys, but there are plenty of other good players out there who are ready to go and can beat me.

“It is a great achievement to be seeded but the end goal is to be going deep in these tournaments, not turning up as a seed and losing.”

Edmund, who was replaced as the top-ranked Briton by Evans in October, plays Serbia’s 24th seed Dusan Lajovic on court 15 about 13:30 local time (02:30 GMT).

The 25-year-old slid down the rankings during 2019, when he struggled for form and fitness. But he ended the year on a high by being Great Britain’s standout player in their run to the Davis Cup semi-finals.

Edmund is hoping a new coach in Franco Davin, who notably helped his fellow Argentine Juan Martin del Potro win the 2009 US Open, can spark him to replicate the form that took him to the Australian Open semi-finals in 2018.

“It is going well. It is a different dynamic working with a South American,” said Edmund, who is ranked 69th.

“He’s got experience so is a calm person and a calming influence.”

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‘I don’t think I could do more than I did’ – Federer defends air quality stance

Roger Federer

2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Roger Federer says he could not have “gone on court and told people to stop” when poor air quality affected players in Australian Open qualifying.

Bushfires in Australia have caused air pollution issues and several lower-ranked players criticised the top stars for not publicly supporting them.

Swiss great Federer said he spoke to tournament officials, telling them they needed to communicate better.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner said: “I don’t think I can do more than I did.”

The 38-year-old world number three, who has won six Australian Open titles, added: “We all care for one another. I told them communication is key for all of us, for everybody.

“We just need to do more because I feel like I hadn’t got enough information.”

Fires have been raging in Australia since September, killing at least 28 people, destroying thousands of homes and scorching millions of acres of land.

Spanish top seed Rafael Nadal says he also spoke to Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley and was “convinced” by the reassurances given that players would be taken off court if air quality experts deemed it was unhealthy to compete in.

Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic had to be helped off court when she retired from her qualifying match on Tuesday because of the air quality.

British player Liam Broady said having to play his first-round qualifier on the same day “made his blood boil”, adding he was “gasping for air” as he lost to Belarusian Ilya Ivashka.

People in Melbourne were advised to stay indoors and keep pets inside on Tuesday.

Australian Open organisers have since confirmed matches will be suspended if the level of air quality goes above 200 on the PM2.5 measure they are using.

This information was made public for the first time on Thursday evening, with the players only receiving the information in an email sent out on Wednesday night – described by Broady as “a slap in the face”.

Federer said a lot of players were left confused on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“So what can I do? I can go to the office, speak to them. I went to them the first day when it was bad on Tuesday, the next day on Wednesday when it was still bad,” he added.

“Can I go on court and say, Everybody stop play? I can try. I don’t think that’s going to do much.”

Tiley said the tournament decided on a threshold of 200 for suspending matches after talking to environment experts and respiratory specialists, adding some sporting events – including the Olympics – use 300 as their benchmark.

“I received – and that doesn’t mean everyone should be the same – an answer that convinces me,” Nadal, a 19-time Grand Slam champion, said.

“They told me that they have the right specialists here analysing and monitoring the air every four minutes.

“There are parameters, if it is over 200, we don’t play, and if it is under 200 we normally play.

“And I was given an answer that the ‘Olympic rule’ is until 300 you can keep competing.

“I really cannot believe that the most important committee in the world wants bad health for the competitors.

“So that answer convinces me. I am here to play.”

However, Canadian 13th seed Denis Shapovalov says he would not play – and default a match – if the air quality became hazardous.

“I don’t want to risk my life, risk my health being out there playing in these conditions when I can play for the next 10-15 years,” said the 20-year-old.

“I think everyone is on the same page in terms of how it is.

“I don’t think anyone is happy with the way things are being dealt with.”

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Konta to miss GB Fed Cup duties in 2020 to protect body

Johanna Konta, arms dropped, during US Open 2019 quarter-final v Elina Svitolina

2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

British number one Johanna Konta will not play for her country in the Fed Cup this year as she looks to protect her body and extend her career.

Konta, 28, has only played one tournament since September’s US Open because of a knee injury.

“I need to take care of my body and take some decisions which are not always easy,” Konta told BBC Sport.

Fellow Briton Katie Boulter has also cast doubt on her participation in the team event this year.

“I haven’t confirmed my status on Fed Cup at the moment,” said Boulter, 23, who was the British number two before a stress fracture in her back.

“It is something I am going to focus on after the Australian Open.”

Britain face a qualifier away to Slovakia on 7 February with a spot in the inaugural Fed Cup finals at stake.

Konta and Boulter were part of the Great Britain side that beat Kazakhstan last February to reach the World Group II stage for the first time in 26 years.

Boulter injured her back in the tie, playing through the pain to win her two singles matches, but barely playing for the rest of the year in consequence.

Konta, ranked 13th in the world, says managing her knee issue – a tendonitis-like inflammation – played a part in her decision. She made the call after discussing her plans with British captain Anne Keothavong at the end of last year.

“It is a tough decision because the Fed Cup has always been something close to my heart,” said Konta, who will compete for only the second time in four months when the Australian Open starts on Monday.

“I’ve had some incredible experiences in my career so far in Fed Cup and I’m looking to hopefully have some more.

“I’m not retiring [from it] full stop, just for this season with it being an Olympic year. With the challenge I had at the end of last year it is to be able to hopefully have more Fed Cup seasons under my belt.

“Hopefully it will give me the longevity I want.”

Konta is seeded 12th at the Australian Open, where she reached the semi-finals four years ago.

She starts her latest campaign in Melbourne against Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, who is ranked 85th in the world but can trouble opponents with her variation.

Of her current fitness, Konta said: “I’m getting there. It’s not acute, it’s something that is manageable and something that will continue to be managed for quite some time.”

Boulter reached 86 in the world during February’s Fed Cup tie, but has slipped to 317th having not played a match on the main WTA Tour since then.

She has a nightmare draw in Melbourne, facing Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina on Tuesday.

“I am completely free of pain, I’m in a good place physically and that’s the main thing for me,” Boulter said.

“Svitolina is an amazing player but I’m just happy to be on the court.”


BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller at Melbourne Park

Johanna Konta has been virtually ever-present in the GB Fed Cup team since 2013, and her sabbatical will hit the team very hard.

The recent retirement of Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova had made this very tricky away tie appear much more winnable.

The task of qualifying for April’s extremely lucrative Fed Cup finals will now fall to Heather Watson, Harriet Dart and Katie Boulter. Although, as you have read, Boulter’s participation is far from assured.

With the Tokyo Olympics taking place in July, the period between May’s French Open and September’s US Open is even more frenetic than usual.

And Konta is no doubt mindful of the stress a switch from the hard courts of Melbourne to the indoor clay of Bratislava could put on her knee.

But it’s a huge blow to the team, just as they’ve finally clambered their way into the elite bracket.

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