Despite falling in the final of the Aegon Open in Nottingham to a resurgent Donna Vekic, it was a solid week of grass-court preparation for the top seed, Johanna Konta. She reached her first career final on the surface and was on the verge of winning the title before Vekic rallied to win, 2-6, 7-6 (3), 7-5.
In a year that’s seen her establish herself as a solid member of the Top 10, Konta will be shortlisted among the favorites for Wimbledon. Even though she’s only made it past the first round once, she’ll have the weight of a nation on her shoulders.
Will she be able to handle the expectations?
Konta, who made her debut in the Top 10 last year, has been one of the more consistent performers on tour this season. She won the second title of her career in Sydney in January without the loss of a set.
Hard courts are surely her best surface, and she was considered a contender for the Australian Open, having reached the semifinals the year prior. Her run at the year’s first major ended at the hands of eventual champion Serena Williams.
In the two Premier Mandatory tournaments in the United States, Konta went from a third-round loss in Indian Wells to capturing the title in Miami for her first Premier Mandatory title.
Traditionally, Konta hasn’t played well on clay, and this year was no exception. She failed to make a quarterfinal leading up to the French Open and was upset in the first round of the major.
Now as the tour turns to grass, Konta’s had a near-perfect start leading up to Wimbledon, the most prestigious event in tennis. Players competing at their home Slam can uniformly attest to the pressures of playing in front of their countrymen and countrywomen. (Amelie Mauresmo and Samantha Stosur come to mind.) Of course, the Brits would like to see a woman take home the title and become the first female champion since Virginia Wade won it in 1977, and Konta represents the nation’s best chance for that to happen.
The ATP’s No. 1 knows all about the pressure of playing in front of the eager audiences at the All England Club.
It’s Konta’s turn now to play under the spotlight. And with the way she’s developed over the past two years, combined with a different landscape on the WTA tour, she will be in the mix at the majority of the Grand Slams.
Her next opportunity comes in two weeks, at the tournament every player dreams of winning. How she handles the increased scrutiny is what will determine in the end if she can break away from the pack.