Wimbledon 2019: Rejuvenated Johanna Konta to lead the British charge in the women’s singles
Few people would have given Johanna Konta much of a second thought as a possible Wimbledon 2019 contender a few months ago. After all, she came close to slipping out of the world top 50 after a difficult start to the season.
But then suddenly everything clicked on clay as she went on magical runs in Morocco, Rome and Roland Garros. She finished runner-up in the two tournaments preceding the French Open and was a semi-finalist in Paris.
At Roland Garros, she became the first British woman since Sue Barker in 1976 to reach the last four. Of course Barker went two better as she won the whole shebang.
But the focus shifts quickly to the grass-court season with the grand finale in the women’s game set for July 13 at Wimbledon.
And Konta will again be looking to follow in another Brit’s footsteps as she is hoping to become the first British woman to win a major since Virginia Wade’s Wimbledon triumph in 1977.
Those are certainly big shoes to fill, but the big question now is whether or not she will carry her clay form over to the grass and win the Wimbledon title.
The 28-year-old is on a high so there is no reason why she can’t produce that title-winning form at SW19 as she has produced the goods at the All England Club before, making the semi-final in 2017.
She is now a three-time Grand Slam semi-finalist, but she does not want to be remembered as a semi-finalist and needs to go take at least one step further at Wimbledon this year.
One person who knows all about winning Wimbledon is former world No 1 Lindsay Davenport, who won the title at SW19 in 1999.
The American believes Konta is “setting herself up for a huge result” at Wimbledon.
“I’ve always thought she’s had a champion’s mentality,” Davenport said.
“How she works, how she speaks, how she approaches her career, that’s going to pay off, and you can see it paying off this season.
“I think she’s setting herself up for a really strong second half of the year.”
She added: “Hopefully she plays a really smart schedule, because Grand Slams, when you make a run, it takes something out of you and it’s always important to recover, especially with Wimbledon coming up so soon.
“Sometimes the temptation is to keep playing, keep playing.
“Hopefully she assesses everything really well and doesn’t overplay going into the biggest tournament for her, which is Wimbledon, because I think she’s setting herself up for a huge result there.”
No question the attention will just be a bit more, the hype will be a bit louder, but while it affects some negatively, Konta needs to feed off that positive energy.
Her rise, though, has naturally given the rest of the British contingent a lift with Katie Boulter, Heather Watson, Harriet Dart and Katie Swan next in line.
Boulter has struggled with injury and was forced to miss the French Open while Watson and Swan failed to make it through the qualifiers at Roland Garros.
They are all outside the top 100 so might have to come through qualifying or might be given a wildcard, but the grass-court season will give them new hope.
Suddenly the impossible doesn’t seem impossible and a decent run at Eastbourne or Nottingham could just do the trick and give them a boost ahead of Wimbledon.
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