Spotlight on Konta
Breakthrough Miami Open win will add pressure on the Briton
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 career-high seventh in the world next week after a start to the year in which she won in Sydney, reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and then claimed her first premier mandatory tournament on the hardcourts of Key Biscayne.
Her 6-4, 6-3 victory over Caroline Wozniacki yesterday morning (Singapore time) saw her clinch the biggest tennis title by a British woman in 40 years.
Konta recently noted that the success of world No. 1 Andy Murray in the men's game has kept the attention and pressure of the media and fans in Britain away from her, but she can be sure that the level of expectation will rise sharply ahead of Wimbledon.
Former leading British women's player Sam Smith, now a television analyst, said that while Konta may not yet be aware of how her status in British sport is about to change, she is confident the 25-year-old can handle what is coming her way.
"Someone needs to tell her, 'Jo it is going to be different,' but you know what, 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, essential as they are, do not weaken in any way her 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 Wozniacki, a former world No. 1.
"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, I think, the defeats as motivating. I think that stays.
"Then it's about keeping things simple and working for me," she added.
"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 racquets I will be able to say that I really maximised my full ability and gave everything inside me."
While the WTA Tour has no shortage of players who shone as teenagers but quickly faded, Konta's rise has been a gradual one, but she sees no reason that should limit her chances of succeeding at the very top.
She said: "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.
"I was very fortunate that throughout the years I've managed to have some very, very good people around me."
Perhaps Murray, with his understanding of the pressures of expectations, will provide some more of that knowledge and wisdom that Konta is clearly benefitting from.
In the Miami Open men's draw, veterans Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were scheduled to cross swords this morning in a rematch of this year's Australian Open final. - AFP