When the WTA rankings were announced on Monday, there was a change seen for the first time in 32 years. Johanna Konta, Britain’s number one, is now ranked in 9th, simultaneously becoming the first British woman since 1984 to enter the world’s top ten. This final surge seemed to culminate as a result of her performance in the China Open, where she finished runner-up after a match versus number three seed Agnieszka Radwanska. With her place amongst the world’s elite seemingly earned, Konta may be aiming to continue competing in the latter stages of upcoming tournaments, as this may cement her place in the top 10, whilst also perhaps establishing her amongst the most successful and accomplished British tennis players in history.
In China, Konta was seeded 11th, and her route to the final seemed challenging; she may have faced the number one, two, four and five seeds during her quest for the trophy. Konta seemed to take the pressure of potentially versing a smorgasbord of the highest ranked players in her stride, recording straight set victories in her opening two rounds. In the third round, she overcame fifth seed Karolína Plíšková, before reaching the semi-finals with a victory versus Zhang Shuai. It seemed to be this match versus Madison Keys in which Konta played at her peak level, emerging victorious and advancing to the final, a match in which she seemed to closely contest yet ultimately finished runner-up. Her run in the tournament has resulted in Britain having both a male and female tennis player amongst the top 10 in the world, which may suggest British tennis players are able to compete amongst the best in the world, perhaps simultaneously contributing to future Davis Cup victories.
Konta’s 2016 season seems to have been a successful one, in which she achieved multiple accomplishments and overcame boundaries. She reached her first Grand Slam semi-final in the Australian Open, gaining victory versus 7-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams in the opening round, won her first WTA tournament, also versus Williams, and competed for Team GB at the Olympics. Konta’s achievements in 2016 may suggest she is capable of competing amongst the most accomplished players on the tour, and may contest the four Grand Slams in 2017. Additionally, with Konta now amongst the top 10, a challenge may have been placed in front of her which she may relish; if she is able to repeat her 2016 feats next year she may elevate her ranking further, whilst perhaps simultaneously cementing her place amongst the female tennis players’ elite.
Konta’s seemingly accomplished performances across all surfaces in the last year may highlight her adaptability in being able to find her peak form in any tournament, yet she perhaps more prominently seems to be having an effect on British tennis. Jo Durie, in 1984, reached her career-high number five ranking, and Konta is the first woman in 32 years to emulate her top 10 entrance. Additionally, she has risen 138 ranking places in the last 16 months, and this, coupled with winning her first WTA title in the Stanford Classic after a straight sets victory over Venus Williams, seems to emphasise her rapid rise to stardom. Konta may now be the spearhead and focal point of female tennis for Britain, perhaps motivating other British players, such as Laura Robson and Heather Watson, to attempt to replicate her seemingly meteoric, and almost instantaneous, rise.
With the WTA season concluding at the end of October, Konta has few tournaments left to partake in, although her performance this year may act as a catalyst for her 2017 form, perhaps contributing to her quest for Grand Slam glory. Ultimately, Konta may be able to look at 2016 as a successful year for her in the sport, as she has reached the top 10 of the rankings, reached a Grand Slam semi-final, and has recorded victories in multiple rankings events. Konta’s seemingly accomplished performances across multiple surfaces may emphasise her versatility, yet may more prominently highlight the suggestion Britain now has a female tennis player who possesses the talent, and quality, to flourish at the top.
How may Konta maintain her form in order to elevate her ranking further?