Konjuh, a former world No. 20, has endured 18 months away from the game and undergone four elbow surgeries over the course of her young career.
But her 6-2 6-7 6-4 victory over fourth seed Friedsam saw her advance to the second round of qualifying on Sunday and boost her chances of playing in a first major tournament since Wimbledon in 2018.
The 23-year-old Croatian, who was granted a wildcard for qualifying, was comfortably leading 6-1 5-2 before Germany’s Friedsam launched a comeback and commanded a break lead in the deciding set.
Konjuh, however, rallied in the final three games and is now potentially two games away from a place in the Australian Open main draw.
“To have to go through all of the steps again to get there, it’s hard, it’s frustrating.
“Right now I just feel privileged to have a chance to compete and be healthy, and I think that I just really appreciate these things so much more right now.”
It’s the first time ever that Australian Open qualifying has taken place overseas with the women’s matches staged in Dubai, UAE, and the men’s in Doha, Qatar.