Any thoughts that Johanna Konta was struggling to recapture her excellent form of last season were dashed in stunning fashion as the Eastbourne player recorded a straight sets victory against Venus Williams at the Australian Open last night.
It was Konta’s first appearance in the main draw of the Australian Grand Slam but it took her just an hour and 19 minutes to win 6-4, 6-2 against number-eight seed Williams who was competing for the 16th time at Melbourne Park.
She will now face China’s Zheng Saisai in the round two.
A fine run of form last season saw Konta win 20 from 23 matches and propelled her to British number-one and a career high world ranking of 47.
Victory against Williams was her first triumph in 2016 have previously lost to Dominika Cibulkova in Hobart and Qiang Wang in China.
Venus had beaten Konta in the quarter finals of the Wahun Open last year but this time 24-year-old Konta delivered a confident performance in the Rod Laver Arena.
Konta, who was born in Sydney and competed as an Australian until 2012, said later, “When the draw came out and I saw who I was playing, I thought, ‘OK, hope I stay out there for more than an hour.’”
Konta need not have worried as Williams, the oldest player in the draw at 35, never got to grips with Konta’s serve and accurate ground strokes and she took the first set with a beautifully hit ace straight down the middle.
In the second, Konta accelerated to a 5-0 lead and served and for the match but Williams broke and won the next to make it 5-2.
Konta though, steadied herself on her next service game, she was forced to defend two break points but completed the job with another booming serve that saw Williams’ return hit the net.
It was an impressive performance and underlines the progress Konta has made in the last 18 months.
She carries the hopes of British success in the women’s singles on her own now following the disappointing exit of Heather Watson.
Konta said, “It’s irrelevant how old she is because she’s such a champion with so much experience and knowledge.
“Even if she’s playing with one leg out there, you’ve got to really take care of things on your own because she’s an incredible player. I have all the respect for her in the world.
“Right now it is still very much a blur,” added Konta, who lost in the first round at her two warm-up tournaments.
“When the draw came out and I saw who I was playing, I was just hoping to stay out there more than an hour.
“I played two previous tournaments and didn’t quite get the results I wanted but I have a very strong belief in the way I want to play and the way I want to be thinking.”