British No 1 was scheduled to play Kiki Bertens in first round
Johanna Konta speaks with tour physio Belinda Smith before retiring with a neck injury on Sunday
Johanna Konta’s troublesome start to the new year took another turn for the worse on Monday when, a week before the Australian Open, she pulled out of the Sydney International for a second time in two days .
The British No 1 was scheduled to play Kiki Bertens as a lucky loser in the first round after having retired from her second-round qualifying match with a neck injury on Sunday, before news of her withdrawal was announced. No reason has yet been given for the decision.
Konta was a quarter-finalist at the 2017 Australian Open after having reached the semi-final a year earlier, but was knocked out in the second round in 2018. She swapped coaches in October when she ditched the American Michael Joyce after less than a full season and in came the Frenchman Dimitri Zavialoff. “We’d kind of come to the end of our road,” said Konta recently.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Cameron Norrie secured his spot in the second round of the ASB Classic in Auckland with a straight-sets victory over Frenchman Benoît Paire. The 23-year-old saved all four break points faced as he raced to a 6-3, 6-2 win in just under an hour.
Norrie, who also won 79% of his first-serve points, broke his opponent once in the opening set and twice in the second for his first victory of 2019. He will now face Portugal’s João Sousa in the next round.
Qualifier Heather Watson made a swift exit from the Hobart International after suffering a first-round defeat by Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu. Watson, who fought her way past the Australian Isabelle Wallace to claim a place in the main draw, went down 6-1, 6-4. The Briton lost six games on the trot as the first set slipped away and although she made a better fist of the second, she was unable to drag herself back into the match.
Konta and Watson have been selected along with Katie Swan, Katie Boulter and debutant Harriet Dart for the Fed Cup tie at Bath in February when Great Britain will be hosts for the first time in more than 25 years.
“I’m delighted to name our strongest possible team,” said the captain, Anne Keothavong. “It won’t be easy, that’s for sure, but it’s a challenge we relish and hope to give the home crowd something to cheer about.”
Great Britain are one of eight teams taking part in the Europe/Africa Group One zonal event shared with Poland with the winner of each tie going into the World Group Two play-offs in April. The teams will be split into two groups at a draw due to take place on 14 January. Britain have suffered frustration in recent times, reaching the play-offs four times in the past seven years before failing to progress, their most recent reverse in April when defeated by Japan.