Australian Open 2019: Murray and Konta carry slim British hopes

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There are fitness and form doubts over Britain’s leading men, while Johanna Konta is looking to rediscover the magic of 2017

Jacob Steinberg– The Guardian

Andy Murray

Age 31 Ranking 230 Seeding N/A

Uncertainty hangs over the former world No 1, who has struggled to return to his physical peak after hip surgery. These are difficult times for Murray and although the five-times Australian Open finalist could be a dangerous first‑round opponent for a seeded player, it was troubling to hear him express concerns over his future after losing to Daniil Medvedev in Brisbane last week. It remains to be seen how far he can push his body over the course of five sets.

Kyle Edmund

Age 24 Ranking 14 Seeding 13

Murray’s fitness problems have increased the pressure on Edmund and the British No 1 will be under the microscope after his stirring run to last year’s semi-finals. Dealing with heightened expectations will not be easy for this shy young man. However Edmund has made smooth progress under his Swedish coach, Fredrik Rosengren, and his devastating forehand will give him a chance against anyone. It would be unwise to read too much into a rusty defeat to Yasutaka Uchiyama, the world No 163, in Brisbane.

Cameron Norrie

Age 23 Ranking 93 Seeding N/A

The left-hander is looking to maintain his progress after breaking into the top 100. Norrie enjoyed a good win over Benoît Paire in Auckland – where he grew up – and will be determined to make the most of his first appearance in the main draw at the Australian Open.

 

 

Johanna Konta

Age 27 Ranking 38 Seeding N/A

Britain’s best woman fell down the rankings last year and ended up splitting with her coach, the American Michael Joyce, after failing to replicate the highs of 2017. Last season was difficult for Konta, who must prove that she was no flash in the pan. Konta has a new coach, the Frenchman Dimitri Zavialoff, and the 2016 Australian Open semi-finalist was feeling good about her game after beating Sloane Stephens in Brisbane. However, her withdrawal from the Sydney Open was a concern.

Heather Watson

 

Age 26 Ranking 93 Seeding N/A

Watson has made it out of the first round in Melbourne on only two occasions and her recent grand slam form does not inspire confidence. The 26-year-old has also had a sticky start to the year, losing to Marta Kostyuk in qualifying for Brisbane and Irina-Camelia Begu in the first round at Hobart. The player who almost stunned Serena Williams at Wimbledon four years ago is rarely seen these days.

Katie Boulter

Age 22 Ranking 99 Seeding N/A

Boulter’s first task this year is to hold on to her place in the top 100. That will provide her with a solid platform to keep improving. Boulter has already had a taste of grand slam action, beating Verónica Cepede Royg before losing to Naomi Osaka at Wimbledon last year, and she will savour her first appearance in the main draw at the Australian Open.

 

 

British players in qualifiers

Dan Evans

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Age 28 Ranking 190 Seeding N/A

A talent that promised so much has rather fizzled out in the past 18 months. Evans seemed to be on to a good thing when he reached the fourth round of the Australian Open in 2017, only for his career to hit a dead end when he received a one‑year ban after testing positive for cocaine. Evans, who returned to the tour last April, now has a chance of redemption.

 

James Ward

Age 31 Ranking 187 Seeding N/A

Injuries have stopped Ward from making the most of his early potential and the suspicion is that his best years are behind him. He barely played a match of any note in 2018 and has not featured in a grand slam since a first-round defeat to Marcos Baghdatis 18 months ago.

Ward battled back from a set down to defeat home favourite Maverick Banes in the first round of qualifying which set up a meeting in the next stage with Argentinian Marco Trungelliti.

Harriet Dart

Age 22 Ranking 132 Seeding N/A

Qualifying for Brisbane at the expense of Andrea Petkovic was a good way for the Londoner to start her season, even if she followed it up with a heavy defeat to Anastasija Sevastova. Dart will need more of that fearlessness after qualifying for the main draw in Melbourne for the first time and beating France’s Chloe Paquet in the first qualifying round. No doubt she will draw on the experience of earning a Wimbledon wild card and playing well in a first-round defeat to Karolina Pliskova last year.

 

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