Johanna Konta heads into what she hopes will be a more positive 2019 season buoyed by two new men in her life.
After the high of reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals in the summer of 2017 and climbing to fourth in the world rankings, it has been a rocky 18 months for the British number one.
Her Wimbledon success was followed by a dramatic burn-out which saw her win just two more matches that season and she ended an inconsistent 2018 campaign with her ranking having dropped to 37.
But 2018 had a positive ending in October when Konta put together her best string of results to reach the semi-finals in Moscow during a trial week with French coach Dimitri Zavialoff.
That quickly turned into a permanent partnership and, after a month of pre-season training, Konta and Zavialoff headed to Australia on Sunday evening ahead of her first tournament of the new season in Brisbane.
Zavialoff guided Stan Wawrinka for nearly 20 years and also coached his fellow Swiss Timea Bacsinszky, and Konta is feeling very positive about the relationship.
“We’ve been in this place many times and it doesn’t always guarantee that it kicks off well but I definitely feel I’ve had a very strong pre-season so that has given me a good chance to have a good overall 2019.
“He (Zavialoff) is teaching me to be quite self-sufficient on court, it is much more of a partnership than I have had in previous coaching relationships. Therefore hopefully it will make me better equipped to deal with challenges on court.”
Zavialoff is Konta’s fourth coach in as many years, with Wim Fissette and Joyce both only lasting a season after following Spaniard Esteban Carril, who helped the 27-year-old break through at the top of the game.
“I still took a lot from the last two coaches I had. But I’m definitely constantly looking for the kind of work that I want to be doing and the kind of voice that I want to be hearing and the kind of philosophy, fundamentally, that I want to be working along with.”
In order to avoid a repeat of the burn-out she experienced in 2017, Konta will prioritise periods of rest, which is where the second new man in her life comes in.
The highlight of Konta’s off-season was not a holiday but the acquisition of a miniature dachshund puppy named Bono, after the singer of her favourite band, U2.
Despite the disappointment of much of 2018, the moments where Konta produced her best resulted in some notable wins, not least the 6-1 6-0 success against Serena Williams in San Jose that was the most one-sided loss of the American’s career.
“I feel confident that no player can step on court against me and feel confident that they will come out the winner,” said Konta.
“I have never woken up, looked at myself in the mirror and thought: ‘Hey 37!’ Or: ‘Hey, number four, how are you doing?’ I want to be at the end stages of every tournament that I play. I consider myself in the mix every time.”