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Is it time for Johanna Konta to shake off her Tim Henman reputation?

Steve Shoup

Johanna Konta will enter this year’s Wimbledon tournament as Britain’s best hope of producing a champion since Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win in 2016. Since the start of the 2016 season, Konta has featured in three Grand Slam semi-finals, but has failed to progress each time.

Worryingly for Konta, she has a record that is showing similarities to one of Britain’s greatest nearly-men – Tim Henman. “Tiger Tim” reached six semi-finals during his career, but was unable to reach a final in any of those attempts. Konta is 14/1 in Wimbledon 2019 women’s winner odds, but her failure to reach a final thus far certainly raises questions.

Stuck in a rut

Konta was sensational in her quarter-final match against world number seven and 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens at Roland Garros, beating her in straight sets 6-1, 6-4. She faced unseeded entry Marketa Vondrousova in the semi-final, but couldn’t produce the same form from the previous round and was defeated in straight sets, allowing the unseeded Czech to reach her first Grand Slam final, and leave Konta stuck in a rut.

There is seemingly a mental hurdle for Konta to overcome. On her day, she’s a fantastic player but there is a concern that she needs to break her voodoo for getting knocked out in the semi-finals. The more she appears and is eliminated at the semi-final stage, the harder it’ll be to mentally overcome the barrier. The mind can be a tough nut to crack, but the sooner she reaches a final, the sooner she’ll be out of the rut.

Comparisons to Henman

It is completely understandable for British tennis fans to make comparisons between Konta and Henman. Both have only ever reached the semi-final stage of a tournament and the best both have ever done in the world rankings is world number four.

Having said that, Konta shouldn’t be put off by those comparisons, especially considering that her game is better-rounded than Tiger Tim’s. He was a typical serve-and-volley specialist, whereas Konta is comfortable with also playing along the baseline as well as serving and volleying. It provides her with other avenues in which to defeat her opponents.

Getting over the line

The French Open represented a fantastic opportunity for her to finally reach the final of a Grand Slam, and while it might not have been her destiny to reach the 2019 final at Roland Garros, don’t underestimate what that sort of run can do for confidence, especially heading into the grass court season.

With the backing of the British crowd behind her, she could very well find the final push to get herself over the line and into the final of Wimbledon. If she can push herself even further and win the tournament, she’d be the first woman since Virginia Wade in 1977 to have won the tournament.

History awaits Konta. She has thus far shown she has the ability to dominate her opponents. But it is not clear whether or not she has the ability to reach that upper echelon in tennis, which is occupied by the likes of Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep. Your moment awaits Konta, take the opportunity with both hands and don’t look back.

 

 



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