Jo Konta is still working through the consequences of her dramatic slump during the second half of last year, but goes into the Australian Open feeling positive once more.
The 26-year-old reached a high of fourth in the rankings after her stunning run to the Wimbledon semi-finals, but won only two more matches in 2017.
She ended the year on a run of five straight losses, and subsequently split from coach Wim Fissette.
Jo Konta is still working through the consequences of her dramatic slump during last year
After a 6-1, 6-2 loss to Monica Niculescu in Beijing, where she appeared devoid of confidence and unsure of her game, Konta decided to rest a nagging foot injury and call a halt to her season.
‘I think besides the physical struggles I was having with my foot, which definitely hindered my ability to stay as present and as focused as I wanted to on court because of the pain I was having, the worries and everything, that all kind of snowballed,’ she said.
‘Then it was also just a case of my tolerance as a person. I kind of hit a bit of a wall. I just wasn’t able to roll with the punches really any more.’
Konta goes into the Australian Open – where she is No 9 seed – feeling positive once more
The British No 1’s start to 2018 has been significantly more positive and she came through two tough matches in Brisbane before suffering an injury scare when a hip problem prompted her to pull out during her quarter-final against Elina Svitolina.
Konta had blitzed the first set 6-1, showing the form that saw her surge up the rankings so unexpectedly in 2016 and the first half of 2017 – but anxiety was evident again as her title defence at the Sydney International ended with a first-round defeat by Agnieszka Radwanska.
Doubt does not live far beneath the surface of a player who admits mental issues held her back during the early part of her career.
She was candid enough at her pre-tournament press conference to admit they may resurface, but is confident she is ultimately on the right path.
The British No 1’s start to 2018 has been more positive, although she suffered an injury scare
‘You can never answer that question fully because you never know,’ she said. ‘You never know what’s around the corner. You never know what kind of challenges come.
‘I’d like to think that I’m definitely further along than when I was before Brisbane, and even further along when I was in Sydney. I think even that match in Sydney has helped me along my way in really trying to play at the level that I want to play.
‘I think a lot of it will get better and better with time. I think the rest that I had at the end of last year already helped with a lot of the issues that I was faced with.
‘I think I feel confident enough in my own ability that I will get back to the level that I want to play and even better than that with time. However many matches I win or lose in between that is not going to change the course that I feel I’m on.’
Konta opens her Australia Open campaign on Tuesday against American Madison Brengle
Guiding Konta now is American Michael Joyce, who has previously worked with Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.
Joyce’s calm demeanour certainly seems a good fit and Konta feels his playing experience – he reached a high of 64 in the rankings – is a big asset.
She said: ‘He is very relaxed. He was a player so I think he can empathise a lot with some of the challenges and difficulties you face. He also coaches with a lot of feel, a lot of intuition, and so far I’m really enjoying spending time with him.’
Konta is the ninth seed and will open her campaign on Tuesday against American Madison Brengle.