Johanna Konta has backed Serena Williams to defend her Australian Open crown, despite speculation that the American may not even compete at Melbourne Park.
The British No. 1 was taken out by the 23-time Grand Slam champion in the 2017 edition, with Williams comfortably winning 6-2 6-3 at the quarter-final stage.
After disposing of the Brit, the 36-year-old defeated Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and her sister Venus to move beyond Stefi Graf’s Open Era record of Slam wins and to move within one title of all-time record holder Margaret Court.
Incredibly, Williams was eight-weeks pregnant and hasn’t competed competitively since winning the final – giving birth to her first child Alexis Olympia in September.
But despite her lack of action, Konta still views Williams as the player to beat at the Australian Open in 2018.
‘You don’t put anything past Serena,’ Konta said. ‘If anyone can back so soon after giving birth, it’s probably going to be her.
‘I think regardless of how many matches she’s had previously or how much tennis she’s played, she’s always Serena and the player or the athlete she is, she brings a lot of that to the table regardless.
‘That was the only time I played her and I knew going into the match that she was preparing for it very seriously. At the time I was one of the most in-form players of that period.
‘She’s got a big serve but what makes her first serve incredibly difficult is that it’s consistently big, and her second serve is very difficult to do anything with.
‘She is a very imposing player with the way she presents herself on court and the attitude she plays with. She doesn’t let you get yourself comfortable on court.’
While Williams is being tipped by many to defend her crown, there are still fears she may not be able to compete.
Speculation that she had decided against playing in the first Slam of the year was fuelled by the announcement that she will be a keynote speaker at the Inside ITF conference in Florida, which takes place between 21-24 January, while the Australian Open runs from 15-28 January.
Despite the clash in scheduling, tournament director Craig Tiley has been adamant that she will be involved.
‘She’s got her visa, she’s entered, she’s practising and she’s probably just got to find a bit more space for a bigger entourage,’ he said.
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