MELBOURNE, Jan 14, 2018 (BSS/AFP) - Johanna Konta believes that the lack of a clear favourite for the Australian Open reflects the growing strength in depth of women's tennis.
Asked by reporters if the year's first Grand Slam -- which begins Monday without defending champion and new mum Serena Williams -- was now wide open, Konta had a curt response. "What does that mean? Whenever I get asked that question, it always comes across in really kind of an almost negative way instead of acknowledging how many great players we have," the world number nine said.
"The championship is open in the sense there's so many great players," added the Australian-born Briton.
"You just see it in every round, in tournaments, in slams. There's so many massive first rounds, tough second rounds. That's not specific to a Grand Slam. That's the same in Brisbane. I played (US Open finalist) Madison Keys first round.
"Even Sydney I played (former world number two) Agnieszka (Radwanska). It's exciting for the fans that bought tickets. They know when they're coming, whatever day they bought tickets, there's going to be great matches on."
Konta ended her 2017 season early after a foot injury caused a slump in late-season form which saw her miss out on the WTA Tour finals.
And her start to 2018 season has not been entirely smooth -- a retirement in the quarter-final at the Brisbane International with a hip injury was followed by a first-round defeat to Radwanska in Sydney.
"I kind of hit a bit of a wall," Konta admitted when asked Saturday about her end of 2017 woes.
"I just wasn't able to roll with the punches really any more. It was basically just a bit overwhelming.
"It just shows the margins are so small in these events. There's really not much in it on who comes through and who doesn't."
Born in Sydney before moving to England, Konta has consistently played some of her best tennis Down Under.
She made the semi-finals at Melbourne Park two years ago and last year won in Sydney before reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals where she lost to eventual champion Serena Williams.