For the third year in a row, Great Britain’s No.1 player Johanna Konta has decided to split with her coach, this time choosing to part ways with the well-respected American coach Michael Joyce, after a year of disappointment.
Konta had been making her way up the tennis ranking ladder in quite some style. Turning her game and her level of performances from a regular ITF player to gradually stepping into the Top 100, then the Top 50 before that memorable season in 2016 where she broke through to the Top 10. Johanna Konta really had arrived.
Konta’s team during that 2016 season was very much settled and stable. She was working with a long-time sports psychologist, Juan Coto, who really did make a huge difference outside of forehands and backhands. He enabled Konta to really alleviate all the tennis pressure on court and helped deal with the anxiety in the heat of the battle in top level tennis. Coto played a huge part in that success, but tragically passed away in November of the 2016 season, and Konta’s results never really recovered to those high standards thereafter.
At the end of that season, Konta split with coach Esteban Carril, before swiftly moving on to Grand Slam-winning coach Wim Fissette at the beginning of the 2017 season, but that was another coaching set up that would not stand the test of time, with Konta electing to part from his services at the end of the 2017 season. Joyce was the next man for that role. A coach that Konta very much backed from the very beginning of the appointment till the end.
Konta’s issues really was the first half of the 2018 season. She failed to defend her big Miami title of the previous year, falling to Venus Williams in the round of 16, and she was desperately chasing ranking points, which really put her in a disappointing situation coming into the grass court swing, which is the time of the year where Konta really wants to get the best out of her tennis and she simply wasn’t able to take the burden off her shoulders on the early hard court events in order to help her out during the grass.
The early Miami exit was a disappointment, and although she showed signs of better clay court performances, she simply did not win enough matches to really enable her confidence to grow for the rest of the 2018 season. Konta had final points to defend in Nottingham, semifinal points to hold on to in Eastbourne and a big semifinal showing hanging over her head from last year. It was a phase in the season, where Konta needed match-wins desperately to achieve the stellar accomplishments that took her to lofty heights in the season before.
Konta fell early in the second round after having a tough draw against the inspired and determined Dominika Cibulkova, but there were some positive signs in the way that Konta was playing in some of her losses. Konta’s game is high-risk, high-tempo, no nonsense and it requires the Brit to be high on confidence in order to prevent the ball from flying left, right and centre. She takes the ball on the rise and hugs the baseline so she maintain the aggressive stance in the rally at all times, but like we have seen with the rise and fall of Eugenie Bouchard, that can be very hard to do with little belief in what you are doing is right.
Konta scored a huge win over Serena Williams in the inaugural tournament of San Jose, and people were starting to think that that was the result that would influence better results for the Brit, but it simply did not materialise. Konta continued to buy into the process, adamant that things would turn around and she showed a refusal to deviate from the encouraging voice of Michael Joyce, which was admirable in many ways. Even during the toughest and lowest moments of the Konta 2018 season, she really maintained the positivity in Joyce and in the game development, but after falling from the World’s Top 10 to barely in the Top 50, and after losing seven of her last nine matches, Konta decided to call it quits with the American Joyce and will now be looking for that new voice that can bring the confidence and security to her high-risk tennis game.