Johanna Konta strives for red clay improvement in 2018
This time last year, Johanna Konta was preparing for the Mutua Madrid Open as the No. 6 player in the world, but fast-forward twelve months and the Brit now finds herself trying to claw her way back into the Top 20. In order to do that, Konta must improve her footing on the red clay.
Konta is currently No.23 in the world and her slide outside the Top 20 has largely been because of ongoing injury trouble, but also because of a bad run of form over a long period of time. Konta’s first match back on the clay took place in Charleston, where she lost unexpectedly to Hungary’s Fanny Stollar. A promising, young talent, but a talent that former Top 10 player Konta would have been predicted to win if on her game completely.
Konta had some success playing the Fed Cup tie against Japan, where she beat the likes of Naomi Osaka and Kurumi Nara, and then moved onto the 2018 edition of the Mutua Madrid Open, where she fought past Magdalena Rybarikova, the No. 16 seed.
Rybarikova admittedly does not take to the red clay that well and is far from a clay-court specialist, but it took great resolve, great character and a certain mental toughness for Konta to come back from a losing position in that first round match. A certain mental toughness that has been absent in many of Konta’s matches in the last twelve months.
After taking the first set, Konta was 0-4 down in the 2nd set, but won seven of the next eight games to put away the Slovakian. It was not pretty but the Brit overcame the mental struggles and played impressive tennis on the red clay, which is something in itself.
Konta’s arrival on the big stage
When Konta was making a name for herself on tour, she lost many really tight matches. Matches with very small margins deciding the match and matches where it really could have gone either way. The difference and the reason why Konta elevated herself to the Top 10 was through hard work, through application to the process she talks about thoroughly, and also by dedicating herself to the psychological side of tennis–something that gets overlooked far too enough and makes such a big difference to many and continues to make a big difference to many.
Getting through personal heartache to return to the very top of women’s tennis
Konta’s former sports psychologist, Juan Coto, took his own life at the back end of 2016. He made an immediate impact to her tennis and her way of life, and he played an integral role in that process and the improvement from the ITF level of the tennis world to making huge waves against the very best players in the world. She rose from No. 146 to Top 10 in the space of 16 months and that was largely down to her commitment and the assistance of Coto, who advised her daily by telephone.
The key for Konta to return to the top lies in winning ugly
When talking on the psychological aspect of tennis, for the Brit to return to the Top 10 it won’t necessarily be through comfortably dispatching top players with relative ease. It will be through coming through the mental struggles, fighting her demons and continuing to persevere and believing in the process she abides by each and every day. She has a new team with Michael Joyce helping her out as the traveling full-time coach, who can work wonders, but winning matches where the chips are down and her back is against the wall, will be the real telling sign of Konta returning back to her best.
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