I think it has to be said that Johanna Konta probably isn’t getting the exposure she currently deserves. She has been the first British female semi-finalist for 32 years at a grand slam event and is the first top ten player for 33 years! Winning Miami recently is by far and way the biggest and most coveted trophy in her cabinet. Are we getting too used to success with our players now? I craved for a time like this when I was younger as I have said before. I think a lot of people forget that the British players generally delivering for us are slight anomaly’s and it’s probably all getting taken for granted a little bit now. Konta’s male counterpart would be Kei Nishikori at 7 in the current rankings and he is pretty much lauded and has superstar status amongst tennis fans worldwide. Konta’s rise has been quick and her ranking has flown through the roof in reaching number 7 now, it’s been quite an achievement so far and it’s not done yet!
The LTA cut her funding a few years ago when up to 150 in the world and making inroads. She has done it her own way though and it’s been a very quick turn around since. After gaining British Citizenship in 2012 she had no hesitation in representing Team GB as she calls it home, her parents moving from Australia in her teens. Her career has really kicked on since the summer of 2015, after a quarter-final showing at Eastbourne she lost to Sharapova in the first round of Wimbledon. The fruit of her labours, working on the confidence in her game reaped the rewards that summer though. After back to back ITF wins she qualified for the US Open and made the fourth round beating both Muguruza and Petkovic on the way to losing to Petra Kvitova. Her game has gone from strength to strength from this point. Her big serve and the fact she tries to impose herself in a rally with big hitting obviously has times where it yields errors, but you have to expect this. It’s having the conviction to keep going after it in the match situation that is now paying off. Working on these aspects of her game cannot be underestimated and look at the difference it has made. Her run to the semi of the Ozzy in 2016 putting her well and truly on the map. A first title in Stanford with a victory over Venus Williams in the final followed that summer. She has kicked on again this season, being utterly dominant in winning Sydney in the lead up to the Oz. Konta was rightly seen as one of the genuine contenders for the title in Melbourne and her performances backed it up. She blitzed Osaka, Wozniacki and Makarova with a show of controlled power play that they had no answers for. It took Serena putting in a vintage performance to deny her in the Quarters. The win in Miami is a culmination of the all the hard work though. Here, Jo experienced the roller coaster and held on. She dug deep to turn it around against Halep, where she was only points from going out. She then outgunned Venus and Wozniacki to land the second title of her season. Ride that wave of emotion!
The four best players in the world will all be back by the summer months, Serena, Vika, Petra and Sharapova. I don’t see right now how they won’t be pretty much straight back into the top four when they return, even if the rankings don’t tell the truth. This is where Konta needs to set her bar now and she will no doubt learn from having these players on tour with her. We know for a fact that she’s in that group behind, and with few points to defend on the clay from last year she has the opportunity to improve her points tally in the coming weeks. Others around her such as Muguruza have a certain French Open title to defend. At 25, she’s maturing into some player and I think that’s only going to improve. As she said after Miami, life experiences both on and off the court are what are forming her as a character and have helped her mature. As someone who grew up as a country bumpkin and moved to London, I can relate to these comments myself. You learn in this world as you go along from the mistakes and experiences. Konta has shown in her results that the proof is in the pudding. Keep up the good work Jo!
Andy Del Potro