Miami triumph puts Britain’s Konta in spotlight

STAR RISING: Great Britain’s Johanna Konta holds the Butch Buchholz Trophy after her match against Caroline Wozniacki, of Denmark, in the women’s singles championship of the 2017 Miami Open Picture: GEOFF BURKE – USA TODAY
STAR RISING: Great Britain’s Johanna Konta holds the Butch Buchholz Trophy after her match against Caroline Wozniacki, of Denmark, in the women’s singles championship of the 2017 Miami Open
Picture: GEOFF BURKE – USA TODAY

Johanna Konta’s days of flying under the radar are numbered now that the Briton has bagged her biggest title yet, at the Miami Open.

The 25-year-old will rise to a careerhigh seventh in the world rankings after a start to the year in which she won in Sydney, reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and then claimed her first premier mandatory tournament on the hard courts of Key Biscayne.

Konta recently noted that the success of world No 1 Andy Murray in the men’s game had kept the attention and pressure of the media and fans in Britain away from her – but she can be sure the level of expectation will rise sharply ahead of Wimbledon.

Former leading British women’s player Sam Smith, now a television analyst, said while Konta may not yet be aware of how her status in British sport was about to change, she was confident Konta could handle what was coming her way.

“Someone needs to tell her ‘Jo it is going to be different’, but I think she will handle it. I think she will probably speak to Andy as well, because it is going to be really big if she continues this upward progression,” Smith said.

Murray’s advice, if requested, will no doubt be forthcoming and – given the Scotsman has come through years of hype around Wimbledon – sage.

Smith’s confidence in Konta’s ability to cope with the attention is largely based on the Sydney-born player’s evident intelligence, professionalism and calmness.

But those qualities do not weaken in any way Konta’s drive and ambition to get to the very top in the sport.

“I think I’ve always had the belief of wanting to become a grand slam champion, wanting to become the best in the world,” Konta said after downing former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets in the Miami final on Saturday.

“I think that stays throughout, with every player I imagine, their career.

“Without that, I don’t think it makes the victories as sweet or the defeats as motivating. I think that stays.

“Then it’s about keeping things simple and working for me,” she said.

“I just want to work and try to really bring out in myself the most that I have. Wherever that gets me that’s where it will get me, but hopefully the day I hang up my rackets I will be able to say I really maximised my ability and gave everything inside me.”

While the WTA tour has no shortage of players who shone as teenagers and quickly faded, Konta’s rise has been a gradual one, but she sees no reason why that should limit her chances of succeeding at the top.

“I think as tennis is progressing and becoming more physical, [development] has become later and later.

“I wasn’t a bad junior either. I got to 11 in the world. I don’t think it was that much of an anomaly. I think I just kept doing what I love, and that’s working hard,” she said.

“I was very fortunate that throughout the years I’ve managed to have some very good people around me.

“I think the more I was able to absorb from them, their knowledge and wisdom, and the more I was able to reinvest that into the matches I played, and on a consistent basis, I think that’s part of reason I’m here now,” she said.

Perhaps Murray, with his understanding of the pressures of expectations, will provide some more of that knowledge and wisdom that Konta is clearly taking advantage of.

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