After a breakthrough year in 2015 in which Konta enjoyed immense success, can she push on even further in 2016 and lift that illusive WTA title?
With freezing temperatures being endured here in the United Kingdom, the story could not be more different ‘down under’ with temperatures continuing to soar.
In a sport that is renowned for superhuman effort, often on consecutive days, physical and psychological ability could prove to be just as important as one’s playing ability.
The opening fixtures of the year’s first Grand Slam have already highlighted just how much of a factor such a challenging climate could be throughout the two weeks in Melbourne. During his comfortable straight sets victory on day one, Novak Djokovic frequently called for the ice vest. Our own Kyle Edmund’s chances of reaching the second round fell through as cramp once more halted his progress in a five-set defeat against Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.
Why is it that I point this out however? Well, unlike many of the players, Konta has expressed an affection towards the heat. Born in Sydney, Jo became accustomed to such heat throughout her earlier years, and the harsher the conditions become, the greater chance the British number one might have to lengthen her stay in Melbourne.
As for the factors that she can control, Konta begins her Aussie Open campaign in the early hours of tomorrow morning (January 19th) as she faces seven time Grand Slam singles champion Venus Williams in the opening round. Should Konta claim another major scalp and another win against a top ten player, the British top seed may well fancy her chances of at least matching her achievement in last year’s US Open by reaching the fourth round.
2015 – The breakthroughJohanna Konta achieved a great deal more in 2015 than even she herself might have believed was possible in such a short period of time.
Just twelve months ago, Konta was unable to progress into the main draw at the Australian Open after a defeat in qualification.
However, her fortunes soon began to change. After storming through French Open qualification in May, Konta was only narrowly knocked out in her first Roland Garros by the longest tie-break of the competitions’ history.
It was her return to the UK that started a revolutionary six months for the Eastbourne-based star. Appearances at the WTA events in Nottingham and Birmingham saw Konta pick up her first, second, and third victories over top ten opponents.
After exiting the competition in Birmingham, Konta would force her way to the quarter-final at her home event in Eastbourne. At the pre-Wimbledon event, Konta defeated both the World Number eight and No. 20 at the time in Ekaterina Makarova and Garbine Muguruza respectively, the latter was not to lose another match until she faced Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final the following month.
Multiple wins back on the ITF circuit saw Konta enter the US Open in the World’s Top 100 for the first time. At the final Grand Slam of the year, Konta would once again defeat Muguruza en route to a last 16 tie in which she would suffer only a very narrow defeat against Czech fifth seed Petra Kvitova.
Soon after returning from the US Open, Konta continued to achieve considerable success at the Wuhan Open. Two qualifying victories placed Konta in the main draw, where she would go on to suffer a narrow three-set defeat to eventual winner Venus Williams. In reaching the final eight, Konta overcame the challenge of Andrea Petkovic for a second time, before triumphing over former World Number One Victoria Azarenka and top seed Simona Halep.
Konta’s feat in China saw her climb into the World’s Top 50 for the first time, and also overtake Heather Watson as Britain’s Number One.
2016 – What can we expect?
After climbing over 100 places in the world rankings in 2015 and finishing the year at an impressive ranking of 47th in the world, the question must surely be; just how much can be achieved by the British Number One this year?
Well, that will depend on what Konta and her coaches, Esteban Carril and Jose-Manuel Garcia, believe to be success at this stage of her career.
When predicting what 2016 can bring from an external viewpoint, an attainable, yet certainly challenging goal would be to win that illusive WTA title to add to her 15 victories on the ITF circuit.
Should Konta continue to experience such a rapid rise through the rankings that she became accustomed to in the second half of 2015, then there is no reason why a Grand Slam quarter-final appearance should not be a primary aim for the 24 year-old Briton.
Last year, Konta proved to the world, and more importantly herself, that she has the talent and determination to achieve great success in this sport.
With slip-ups against lower-ranked opponents now something of a rarity, along with Konta now fearing no-one she faces, there is no reason why she cannot achieve whatever goal her team set her in 2016.