Over the first 10 days of 2017, we're examining the Top 10 players on the ATP and WTA tours—how will they fare during the new season? All of the previews can be found here.
It isn’t often that the mention of a Top 10 player’s name will draw a blank stare from otherwise knowledgeable tennis fans. But that’s the reaction you may still get when the conversation gets around to this 25-year-old from Great Britain. While she has been surging up the rankings for two years, Johanna Konta remains a little under the radar in the U.S.
It’s time to get to know her, because Konta seems to be here to stay. Her move from No. 150 to No. 47 in 2015 could have been seen as a fluke, or even a ceiling; after all, Britain hasn’t produced a Top 10 women’s player since Jo Durie rose that high 30 years ago. But Konta continued to defy the odds, and her seemingly more athletic opponents, in 2016. She began with a run to the Aussie Open semifinals, and backed it up with a title in Stanford, a runner-up finish at the Premier Mandatory event in Beijing, a semifinal in her hometown of Eastbourne and quarterfinals at the Olympics, Montreal and Miami.
How did Konta go from journeywoman to rising star? First, by getting out of Britain. After England’s tennis federation cut off her funding, she hired two Spanish coaches, Estaban Carril and Jose-Manuel Garcia. According to Konta, their biggest accomplishment was getting this tightly-wound Type A personality to stay cool in the pressure moments. From there, she could let her game, and her top-shelf two-handed backhand, flow more freely. While she just missed out on her first trip to the WTA Finals last year, it wasn’t for lack of trying. Konta wound up her season with impressive wins over Karolina Pliskova and Madison Keys in Beijing.
That bodes well for her in 2017, at least to start. Two years ago, she finished the season strong in Asia, and that momentum carried her all the way to the semis in Melbourne. While 25 may have once seemed too old for a breakthrough in women’s tennis, now Konta’s ascent looks like it has come right on time.