Johanna Konta overcomes stiff neck and prepares to face Alja Tomljanovic in

The former Australian Open semi-finalist Johanna Konta says she is glad that things are looking up – quite literally – since she arrived in Melbourne last week.

Konta had performed an unusual double-withdrawal manoeuvre in Sydney last week, pulling out of two matches on successive days because of a frozen neck. But a change of geographical state, from New South Wales to Victoria, has been matched by a miraculous improvement in her health.

“It was quite unfortunate,” said Konta. “I was warming up before my final qualifying match and my neck just kind of seized up – I couldn’t turn left and I couldn’t look up so that made it particularly difficult to hit normal strokes and also serve.

“I got a lucky loser [meaning that someone pulled out of the main draw, clearing a space for her] but I was scheduled the next day and it wasn’t any better – and to be fair it wasn’t any better on the Tuesday either.

“It was just a bit of a random thing and unfortunate, but I can look up now! It’s pretty much almost completely normal. I can live with this. I’m very happy about that but you don’t realise how much you use your neck until you can’t use it.”

The freak injury sapped Konta’s momentum after she had made a promising start to the new season, beating the former US Open champion Sloane Stephens in her opening match in Brisbane.

But she can at least take heart from her excellent record at the Australian Open, the tournament she used to watch as an ambitious schoolgirl in Sydney. She has won ten of her 13 matches in the main draw here – a tally that includes successes over Venus Williams and last year’s champion Caroline Wozniacki – while her only unexpected reverse came against the Croatian-American Bernarda Pera a year ago.

On Tuesday she will play a Croatian-Australian in Alja Tomljanovic, who beat her in Brisbane a fortnight ago, but whose ranking of No. 47 means that Konta (No. 38) should be the favourite on paper.

Konta has won ten of her 13 matches in the main draw at the Australian Open

Credit:
GETTY IMAGES

“I don’t know if you guys have noticed but I seem to play the same players, usually,” joked Konta, whose new coach Dimitri Zavialoff used to work with Stan Wawrinka. “I generally play a handful of players per year and then we do a rotation. So I’m not really surprised.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to play someone I’ve just lost to, and try to learn from how that match went.”

Tomljanovic is a streaky sort of player who goes for her shots but can be erratic at times. She will also have to deal with the pressure of performing in front of her home crowd – a factor that tends to inspire some players while inhibiting others. Her record at Melbourne Park stands at two wins from six attempts.

The match has been scheduled first on Court 3 on Tuesday morning, which means that – from a British perspective – play should start soon after midnight GMT on Monday night.