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Australian Open 2016: Former Sydneysider Johanna Konta knocks out Venus Williams

And so, as local representation in the women's draw dwindles in customary first-week fashion, comes the rub-it-in tale of Johanna Konta. Call her the salt in the Stosur wound, if you like.

Venus Williams knocked out of Australian Open

Venus Williams is beaten in the first round of the 2016 Australian Open by British number one Johanna Konta.

Rod Laver Arena early Tuesday afternoon was scripted to be a smile-to-your-dial affair, an opportunity for trials little and large to be momentarily forgotten, a chance to once again watch Venus Williams play tennis, to marvel that she's been doing this since 1997, and to ponder how different our own worlds have become in her lifetime of monstering small, fluffy balls.

Venus - as singularly recognisable as planet, goddess or song - is now 35, has been managing the auto-immune disease Sjogrens Syndrome for years, and could surely have found an easier way to pass the time. At the end of 2011, sapped of energy and in her thirties, she was ranked 103 in the world.

Yet she flew to Melbourne for a 16th time back in the top 10, a stunning rebirth that in these parts hasn't been afforded the credit it deserves. Venus was once again a threat.

In her path stood Konta, a 24-year-old with a back story to bring a tear to a Tennis Australia official's eye. She'd never played an Australian Open, simply because until now her ranking hasn't been even close to good enough. Not that she isn't familiar with life Down Under, or even with Melbourne Park.


"I remember playing in the under 12 nationals here, a really, really long match on one of the outside courts, a very, very hot day," Konta reminisced after sweeping Williams aside 6-4, 6-2. She felt as if her feet were burning, that the rubber on her shoes and the court beneath them were melting.

Asked what stays with her most from her childhood in Australia, she cited an ability to deal with the heat. "I'm very lucky I got to spend a lot of my young years here."

Growing up on Sydney's northern beaches with her Hungarian migrant parents, Konta was a talented 800-metre runner and swimmer. Ear infections prompted a switch to tennis; she was soon training in Spain, and her family shifted to England when Johanna was 13.

Now she is the British No.1, courtesy of a 2015 rise as stunning as Williams' renaissance. Konta began her grass-court lead-up to Wimbledon last June with a ranking nudging 150. Wins over top-tenners Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza and Ekaterina Makarova in the ensuing months - and a 16-match streak that peaked with a fourth-round appearance at the US Open - took her inside the top 50. She finished the year with the WTA's most improved player award.

"It's about being not too high or too low - just keep trucking on," she said of her improvement, which has been aided by the advice of a sports psychologist to free her mind of clutter and zero in only on the now. "Just keep going. There's a lot of highs and lot of lows in this sport. If you live and die with your wins and losses then it's a very painful road."

She also "trained my butt off" in the off-season, a regime that has clearly worked but was a chore for a self-proclaimed passionate competitor who motivates herself to win matches with the carrot that if she does she'll be playing and not training. After just two days she began counting down to the new year, one she's begun with a bang.

In Williams she saw "an incredibly great player - that's no secret", one she'd stretched to three sets and a smidge under three hours in China four months ago. Even so, she saw the draw here and hoped only to last an hour. In little more than that she'd dismissed the seven-times grand slam champion.

There was no crowing, only grace. "I think it would be silly to look at Venus' age and somehow consider that a reflection of her level," Konta said.

Nor was she willing to take an Ashes cricketer's swipe at her former home. Asked if she was "the one that got away", Konta blushed. "I feel like it's one of those boyfriend talks - 'Is that the guy that got away?'" she said, before a offering generous appraisal of Australian tennis. 

"It's a compliment that you guys would say that, so thank you. But be grateful for what you guys have as well."

Sister Ava, three years her senior, still lives in Sydney. "Australia's a beautiful country to have once called home." Viewed through a rather grim Australian women's tennis prism, that was praise almost too much to bear.