The rise and rise of Johanna Konta: Britain's women's hopes return
Johanna Konta's amazing year has rekindled Britain's hopes of ending the country's almost half-century long women's Grand Slam drought
She has had a record-smashing 2016 – Konta became the first female player in over 30 years to reach a major semi-final as well as to break into the top ten. For the first time since the introduction of computerized rankings, a British man and woman will both be ranked in the top ten.
Turned pro in 2008, Konta’s career until 2016 was largely unremarkable, with 11 ITF titles in singles and 4 in doubles. 2016, though, has been an astonishing, career-redefining year, witnessing her metamorphosis from a lowly-ranked player to Britain’s number one.
The Briton won her first WTA title earlier this year at the Stanford Classic, beating Venus Williams. No British woman has won this title in close to 40 years. Her Australian Open semi-final appearance this year is her career-best performance at a Grand Slam. She also made the finals of the China Open and, although she lost to Agnieszka Radwanska, she racked up enough points to move into the top ten.
Konta is currently ranked world no. 8, and this is especially incredible considering that just two years ago her ranking was in triple-digits! She now has her sights set on the WTA Championships in Singapore at the end of the month. Currently in the 8th spot in the race, she stands a good chance of qualifying.
The 25-year-old’s success comes on the back of her parents’ many sacrifices. Struggling to make ends meet, they once had an Australian county court judgment slapped on them for non-payment of coaching fees when Konta was a child.
She underperformed in most of her international junior circuit matches and Tennis Australia ultimately rescinded its financial support to her.
That’s when 14-year-old Konta was packed off to train in an academy in Barcelona and later, she relocated to the UK with her parents. The 25-year old played for Australia until she became a citizen of Britain in 2012.
Konta is today well-known for her on-court reliability, resilience, and grit, but these are not attributes that came to her naturally. In her early days, Konta was a nervous wreck and often caved in to pressure. The man behind her mental transformation to the formidable force that she is today is her mind coach Juan Coto.
Konta also has the physical strength to match her mind, with a massive forehand and aggressive gameplay.
Virginia Wade, the last British woman to win a Grand Slam, believes that Konta could go all the way in the 2017 season if she maintains her current trajectory, ”It seems that there is an opportunity for someone with excellent mentality and a steady belief. So Jo seems to have those qualities,” she said.
Johanna Konta has the hopes of not one nation, but two, on her shoulders and if anyone can deliver, it is her.