By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – British number one Johanna Konta was philosophical about her first-round exit from the Australian Open on Tuesday in only her second match since last year’s U.S. Open.
The 12th seed, clearly not yet match fit on her return from a knee injury that cut short her 2019 season, lost 6-4 6-2 to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in just over an hour on court one.
A semi-finalist at Melbourne Park four years ago and Roland Garros last year, Konta sprayed 19 unforced errors and struggled to hold her serve throughout the contest but still bounded into the press conference room with a smile on her face.
“It’s an unfortunate thing. It’s part of the sport and it’s part of also the way I play, and it’s something that will come with time and matches,” she told reporters.
“I think ultimately the main thing was to start playing again, and I am. And how I physically felt out there is obviously a massive tick for me compared to where I was in September of last year.
“I think giving myself that time to find a level that I want to play is going to be important. I also played a very good opponent so it’s not all on my racket.”
World number 78 Jabeur, who will next face Madison Brengle or Caroline Garcia, secured her fourth break of serve to win the contest when Konta overcooked a backhand return.
The Tunisian also beat Konta in two sets in their only previous meeting at Eastbourne last year before the Briton went on her run to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
“I expected her to be inspired to play well, and she’s the kind of player that also gets on a bit of a roll,” Konta said.
“It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t quite find a way to make things more difficult for her … I guess that’s just where we are right now.”
Konta said one “big positive” from the trip to the country of her birth was that her knee felt okay on court and she dismissed the idea she might need surgery.
“It is improving,” the 28-year-old said. “It is improved. I mean, I’m not going to cut myself open just for the hell of it.
“I knew that by taking a decision to come play here, I was opening myself up to potentially it not going well.
“But what was good today was my knee felt quite good … that’s a very positive thing for me, especially for where I was in September.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)