Can Michael Joyce help Johanna Konta reach the top?

December 7, 2017

The off-season in tennis may be a quiet time for players to rest a bit before they get into training, but there is always plenty happening off the court - not least this time for Johanna Konta.

It may not quite be like football with its fevered transfer windows, but now is a time many players change coaches and after parting company with Belgian Wim Fissette after less than a year, Konta has confirmed the arrival of 44-year-old American Michael Joyce. It was revealed they were in talks last month.

This move may be one of the most crucial of Konta's career and fans booking corporate hospitality at the Championships, Wimbledon will hope to see evidence that Joyce can take the world number nine to Grand Slam glory, having previously overseen Maria Sharapova's rise to world number one. He has also coached Victoria Azarenka. 

Now may be the perfect time as Konta is 26 and will turn 27 in May, meaning she should be coming into her peak years. 

In the past three years Konta has surged up the rankings, reaching a high of fourth, and has won three tour titles, two of them under Fissette. She has also reached two Grand Slam semi-finals, with her appearance in the last four at Wimbledon coming 40 years after Virginia Wade became the last Briton to win the ladies' singles. 

With Andy Murray winning the men's title twice to end the long wait for another British men's champion, the focus on the ladies' championship is sure to grow. For that reason, Joyce's impact will be particularly closely watched. 

Konta is certainly convinced good things lie ahead, remarking: "Michael is a fantastic coach with a great pedigree. I feel like there is so much more to come."

The American's partnership with Sharapova ran from 2004 to 2011. The first of these years saw Sharapova win her one Wimbledon title to date, which she followed with the US Open in 2007 and the Australian Open in 2008.

True, the Russian had parted company with Joyce by the time she won the first of her two French Open titles in 2013, but it was clear enough what impact the men's former world 64 had made. 

Konta's own form dipped dramatically towards the end of her time with Fissette, not helped by an ankle problem that curtailed her season. The first thing her new partnership can deliver, therefore, is consistent winning form rather than the highs and lows of 2017. More importantly, however, those highs need to take Konta into a Grand Slam final. 

Of course, the competition will be tough. Serena Williams will be back in action after her maternity break, while those who took advantage of her absence to record their first Grand Slam titles - Elena Ostapenko and Sloane Stephens - will be gunning for more. But Johanna Konta now has the coach, experience and talent to challenge for a Grand Slam title in 2018. British fans at Wimbledon will have even more reason to be excited about the tournament.

Image: Getty, from Keith Prowse subscription 

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