The British number one, who said she is trying “to create something new and something better”, dismissed the American number three seed 6-4 6-3.
After an inconsistent 2018 campaign that saw her world ranking drop to 37, Konta appeared to have been dealt a tough draw against the world number six for the opening round in Australia.
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The Briton, 27, faced brisk opposition from the 25-year-old 2017 US Open singles champion, who took Konta to two break points in the opening game.
She held on and stole the advantage in the fourth game, breaking Stephens’ serve, but lost her own in the ninth.
Despite the late surge, Stephens could not turn the set in her favour and was broken again.
In the second set the match had to be halted for 12 minutes after the opening game due to a spectator becoming unwell.
Konta lost her serve in the third game, but broke back in the fourth.
Stephens lost her serve again with the score 3-4 and Konta served out to win the match in one hour and 52 minutes.
Speaking on court Konta said it had been a “really tough match”.
“I think the first three games took about half an hour, so there was very little in it – especially in that first set at the beginning.
“I’m just very happy I was able to maintain my level quite consistently throughout.”
Asked what she had learned from a challenging 12 months, Konta said: “The most important thing is to keep moving forward.
“I’m not trying to recreate something that I had, I’m trying to create something new and something better.”
“I just keep looking ahead and I keep trusting in the work that I do.
“Nothing ever is straight sailing and a constant upward trajectory, so I’m just really happy, I’m sticking to the work, I’m enjoying what I do – even through the challenges – and I’m just going to keep doing that.”
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