Konta impressed by rise of Barty party

By Matt Encarnacion, Matt Encarnacion is a Roar Guru

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    Defending Sydney International women’s champion Johanna Konta is impressed by the incredible rise of Australia young gun Ashleigh Barty.

    Barty will continue her preparations for next week’s Australian Open when she begins her warm-up event in Homebush against qualifier Veronica Cepede Royg on Monday.

    The nation’s highest-ranked tennis player enters the tournament under some pressure after a shock round-one exit at the Brisbane International last week.

    However after a stunning 2017 campaign where she rapidly rose from world No. 271 to a career-high No.17 in the rankings, her opponents are beginning to take notice.

    It comes two years after her well-documented stint as a professional cricketer.

    “She’s a great player, Ashleigh. She’s been playing better and better,” Konta said.

    “It was actually very impressive and quite incredible what she did last year, having not played for a bit of time and taking time away from the sport.

    “She went to professional cricket – that’s pretty cool and incredible. And also she’s a great person. She’s really nice, really polite and sportsmanlike.

    “I think she’s a great player and I’m sure she’ll do you guys proud.”

    Konta also declared herself fit to defend her Sydney crown after retiring during last week’s quarter-final at the Brisbane International due to a hip injury.

    The world No.9 was wary of setting expectations despite her strong showing last year, where she failed to drop a set on her way to defeating Agnieszka Radwanska in the final.

    “I’m definitely happy that my hip is settling down from what happened in Brisbane,” she said.

    “It’s gotten much better. It’s actually settled down a lot quicker than I expected, so that’s a positive. And I hit (on Sunday), and felt pretty good out there.”

    Konta will look to build momentum ahead of the Australian Open when she opens her Sydney campaign again against Radwanska under the guidance of a new coach.

    The Sydney-born Brit linked with Michael Joyce, the former mentor of Maria Sharapova, just before the turn of the new year.

    “It’s still early days but I definitely am enjoying the way we’re working together,” Konta said.

    “He has a very practical approach but he also approaches the game with a lot of compassion and understanding having played himself. I think all those things are only helpful for me.”

    © AAP 2018

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