Serena Williams may not have been able to play the Australian Open had it not been delayed; Johanna Konta remains optimistic after resurrecting her partnership with Dimitri Zavialoff; Heather Watson says watching border control programmes as a child helped her deal with hotel quarantine
Last Updated: 02/02/21 6:52am
Serena Williams revealed she may not have been able to play the Australian Open had it not been delayed while Britain’s Johanna Konta talks about resurrecting her coaching relationship with Dimitri Zavialoff.
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion withdrew ahead of her second-round match at the French Open last October with an Achilles injury she suffered at the US Open, and the problem took longer than expected to heal.
The need for players to complete quarantine on arrival in Australia meant the year’s first Grand Slam was pushed back by three weeks.
“It was great for me because I needed the time, because I couldn’t practise because of my Achilles,” said Williams, after beating Daria Gavrilova 6-1 6-4 at the Yarra Valley Classic.
“I don’t think I would have been here if it was during the regular season. I definitely took that time to recover and to just do the best that I can, and now it’s a lot better.
“Achilles are like the worst thing, honestly. Oh my goodness, I didn’t realise it would be this long. So I definitely was pushing the limits, but I’m here.”
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British No 1 Johanna Konta remains optimistic ahead of the Australian Open after the resurrection of her coaching relationship with Dimitri Zavialoff.
A change in Zavialoff’s personal circumstances meant he ended their partnership last summer, and Konta’s short trial with Maria Sharapova’s former coach Thomas Hogstedt was unsuccessful.
Konta reunited with Zavialoff in November, with the Frenchman committing to a reduced travelling schedule.
He is not in Melbourne, with Konta picking boyfriend Jackson Wade and assistant coach Dan Smethurst – who is also her hitting partner – as the two team members she was permitted to bring with her.
“It never really felt like we stopped working so it was very easy for us to get back to the work at hand,” Konta said of Zavialoff, whose calm and understated approach helped the former Australian Open semi-finalist rediscover her best form.
“The way things ended, there was nothing wrong about it. We were definitely in a position that, if it made sense for both of us, the option was always open and that’s kind of how things worked out.
“I really enjoy learning from him and that keeps me very excited to do what I do. I feel like it makes me a better tennis player.”
Heather Watson said watching Australian border control programmes on television as a child helped her deal with the reality of spending two weeks in hotel quarantine.
The British No 2 was among 72 people who were locked in their hotel rooms following positive COVID-19 cases on flights that had taken them to the country ahead of the Australian Open.
“I was sure we would stay for the 14 days and we wouldn’t be let out because I remember at home when I was younger I used to watch these Australian border control programmes on TV and they were always savage, so I knew that we were in there for the 14 days. So I accepted that pretty quickly.
“It was definitely tough. I wouldn’t say there was anything fun or easy about it. I just tried every day to be as positive as I could. I tried to exercise every day.”