Britain’s No 1, Johanna Konta, has reunited with her former coach Dimitri Zavialoff ahead of the 2021 season after a brief trial with Thomas Hogstedt in the summer and ending her curtailed 2020 campaign with just her hitting partner, Dan Smethurst.
From my perspective, my body wouldn't be able to handle two weeks of de-conditioning, and then pushing me into the deep end. I think it would make it very difficult for players to be able to compete at the highest level without risking their bodies in the process. I think in an ideal world, players would get the opportunity to play one or two warm-up events. But I think this year has probably taught us there's everything but probably ideal. Johanna Konta
Konta enjoyed one of her best seasons in 2019 working Zavialoff, when she reached the semi-finals at the French Open, but the partnership ended this summer when a change in personal circumstances for the French coach left him unable to travel as much.
Zavialoff is a quietly spoken 42-year-old who has previously worked with Stan Wawrinka and has helped Konta to develop variety in her game while restoring confidence in the powerful groundstrokes that are her hallmark.
Konta had a standout clay-court season in 2019, reaching the semis on the clay courts of Roland Garros, and then going on to make the quarter-finals at both Wimbledon, on grass, and the US Open on hard courts before a knee injury curtailed her season and affected the start of 2020.
After her split with Zavialoff, the 29-year-old had a trial in July with Hogstedt, former coach to Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka, but the arrangement did not last.
Hogstedt had delivered plenty of Grand Slam titles to his previous players and Konta hoped to get the benefit of that experience.
“Obviously it’s still very early days,” she said in New York. “I mean, this is the third week I have spent with him.
“So in terms of what he’s bringing to the table, I think it’s very much a work in progress. I think we are still trying to figure out on how we work together.”
Konta reached the semi-finals of the Western & Southern Open in August but otherwise had little success following the resumption of the tour, losing in the second round of the US Open and the first round of the French Open.
By the time she played in Rome, postponed from May to September and where she reached the final in 2019, the arrangement with Hogstedt was over and Konta announced the split.
“They were only working on a trial basis and they agreed to work together for the US swing and then assess going forward,” said a spokesperson for Konta.
A change in the ranking system because of the coronavirus pandemic has prevented her dropping from No 14, but she will need an upturn in 2021 to hang onto her top-20 status and a reunion with Zavialoff augurs well for future success.
Konta’s 2020 season fell into two different phases due to the pandemic, and before it hit she began on a disappointing note at the Australian Open where she lost in the opening round to Ons Jabeur.
She reached the semi-finals of both Monterrey Open in Marhc and the Western & Southern Open in August, but failed to get past the last four at either tournament.
A second round loss at the US Open to Sorana Cirstea pulled down Konta’s confidence, and she then struggled to perform in the subsequent events on the clay player, losing to Garbiñe Muguruza in Rome and teenage sensation Coco Gauff in Paris.
She then withdrew from the Ostrava Open and called the her 2020 season quits, citing the health hazards involved in traveling.
“Johanna Konta’s season is over – she has pulled out of next week’s WTA event in Ostrava as she doesn’t feel comfortable traveling with Covid cases on the rise,“ it was announced on Twitter. at the time.
Meanwhile, Konta says a decision to prevent players arriving for the Australian Open in mid-December has come as ‘a bit of a shock’.
Tennis Australia had been hoping players would be able to fly to Melbourne in time to quarantine for two weeks, and then start the season on 1 January, but the government of Victoria has intervened, and sources have indicated players will not be allowed into the state until the end of December at the earliest.
“Everyone was very much looking forward, and had kind of got their head round the 14 December date, and I think it came as a bit of an adjustment, a bit of a shock,” Konta, the current World No 14, told BBC Sport.
“Everyone is obviously a bit frustrated. However, it’s not under our control, it’s not under Tennis Australia’s control – it’s a government decision.
“I think we just have to stay flexible, and stay open that things might change again, but hopefully if not we will be heading out at the end of December.”
Konta says players would be putting their bodies at risk if they did not have access to the courts during quarantine.
“From my perspective, my body wouldn’t be able to handle two weeks of de-conditioning, and then pushing me into the deep end,” the 29-year-old added.
“I think it would make it very difficult for players to be able to compete at the highest level without risking their bodies in the process.
“I think in an ideal world, players would get the opportunity to play one or two warm-up events. But I think this year has probably taught us there’s everything but probably ideal.”
It may even still be possible for players to compete during the period of quarantine, as happened in New York in the run-up to the US Open.
Another possibility is that the Australian Open is pushed back by a week or two, to allow warm-up events to take place.
Tennis Australia has already decided, for quarantine reasons, to stage all tournaments in Victoria.