Will to win may help Johanna Konta carry British hopes

January 15, 2018

Having just secured the services of the coach who helped Maria Sharapova become world number one, Johanna Konta was always going to be one of the most watched female players in 2018. But for British fans the stakes are even higher.

Andy Murray has reached - and lost - five Australian open finals, but the Scot's decision to opt for surgery after failing to recover from his chronic hip injury means he will probably be out until the start of the grass court season.

While that means fans booking corporate hospitality for The Championships, Wimbledon can expect to see the the two-time winner on its famous lawns, Konta will be carrying realistic hopes of Grand Slam glory in Melbourne and at the French Open.

Having reached two Grand Slam semi-finals - including at Melbourne Park - the Eastbourne-based world number nine has shown plenty of potential. But after agreeing to part company with Wim Fissette at the end of last season, her signing of American Michael Joyce has really made everyone sit up and take notice. 

Speaking to BBC Sport, Joyce - who worked with Sharapova from 2004 to 2010 - said the desire to win is the key characteristic players need - and Konta and Sharpova both have it.

He said: "The biggest thing with Maria for me was her will to win - Johanna's very close to that.

"It was one of the things that I talked to my wife about - I said she actually has a lot of similarities to Maria."

This is not the only attribute they share, Joyce explained, noting both are also characterised by "humility". 

He continued: "They don't search the spotlight, and for me I'm kind of the same. I think both of them enjoy being out on the practice court and enjoy competing and I'm the same way."

Sharapova won both the Australian Open and the US Open under Joyce, and Konta will be seeking similar success.

For British tennis, this would be a huge boost. Even if Murray does come back and can add to his three Grand Slams, at 31 his time at the top is sure to be shorter than that of Konta, now aged 26 and ready to come into her prime. If she can start landing the biggest prizes, it would ensure sustained interest in British tennis for years to come. 

Indeed, many will feel it is high time that the ladies' game took on a higher profile in Britain. After all, no British female player has reached a Grand Slam final since Virginia Wade's Wimbledon triumph of 1977. That date could start to take on the same proportions as the long wait for another male champion after Fred Perry's 1936 victory.

Of course, the nearer Konta gets to a Grand Slam the higher the pressure will grow, but that comes with the territory and it is the work she has done into the psychological side of the game that has already seen her go from an also ran to a contender. For many, 2018 will be the time to see her take that final step.

Previewing the tournament, former US Open finalist Greg Rusedski listed Konta alongside Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza as one of the three most likely winners in Melbourne. For Johanna Konta, this will be a massive year. 

Image: Clive Brunskill/Getty

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