Five reasons Konta could win Wimbledon

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‘History is made’ – Konta into Wimbledon semi-finals
Wimbledon 2017 on the BBC
Venue: All England Club Dates: 3-16 July
Live: Coverage across BBC TV, BBC Radio and BBC Sport website with further coverage on Red Button, Connected TVs and app. Click for full times.

Johanna Konta is two victories away from becoming the first British woman to win Wimbledon in 40 years.

The sixth seed is through to the semi-finals after a thrilling three-set triumph against Romania’s second seed Simona Halep.

Is it time for British tennis fans to start getting a little bit excited? Possibly.

Here are five reasons why the 26-year-old might emulate compatriot Virginia Wade, who won in 1977…

She’s the highest-ranked player left

When Konta – born in Sydney to Hungarian parents – switched allegiance to Britain in 2012, few would have predicted her adopted nation had a future top-10 player on their hands.

The Konta family settled in the UK in 2005, living in the south-coast town of Eastbourne, with Johanna becoming a British citizen in May 2012.

At that point she was ranked outside of the top 200, playing third fiddle to Heather Watson and Laura Robson.

By the end of 2016, she had become Britain’s first top-10 player in over 30 years and was voted by her peers as the WTA’s most improved player.

Now, after seeing off Halep, the world number seven is the highest-ranked woman in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

How the semi-finalists are ranked
Johanna Konta 7
Venus Williams 11
Garbine Muguruza 15
Magdalena Rybarikova 87

“I don’t underestimate any opponents,” said Konta, who will play in her second Grand Slam semi-final after losing to Angelique Kerber at the 2016 Australian Open.

“I think I respect each and every opponent that I’m playing because I’m fully aware of the challenges that they will bring my way.”

She’s mentally strong

So what changed for Konta? A key factor was starting to work with London-based mental coach Juan Coto in 2014.

Konta’s true ability was not in doubt, more her frame of mind – anxiety often getting the better of her forehand when facing key moments in matches.

Konta says Coto, who died last year, was a “tremendous influence” who helped her “beyond tennis”.

She speaks often of the mental and physical “processes” put in place by the Spaniard, and these have shaped a largely emotionless demeanour which remains in place during tense moments of matches.

This was evident again as she fought back from behind – for the first time in this year’s tournament – in the nerve-jangling win over Halep.

“Three of her five matches here so far have gone to three sets, but every time she has been in any kind of trouble, she has been very composed,” four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters told BBC Sport.

“That is important because it means she can wear an opponent down mentally in a couple of ways – firstly by her staying so positive, but also with the way her game stays at such a consistent level throughout a long match.

“The biggest reason why Konta has a chance of becoming Wimbledon champion is her mindset and mental strength.”

She knows she can beat the rest

Konta has a winning record over the three women – Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza and Magdalena Rybarikova – who could stop her winning the title.

Williams, 37, might have won Wimbledon five times, plus another two Grand Slams at the 2000 and 2001 US Opens, but that has not fazed Konta in their previous meetings.

Konta’s record against other semi-finalists
Player Konta’s win-loss record Most recent meeting
Venus Williams 3-2 Williams win, Rome, May 2017
Garbine Muguruza 2-1 Konta win, US Open, September 2015
Magdalena Rybarikova 2-0 Konta win, Nottingham, June 2017

Although Konta edges her five matches against Williams, they have never faced each other in a Slam or on grass. And Williams did win their last meeting in Rome.

If she does manage to see off Williams, then Spain’s Muguruza or Slovakia’s Rybarikova lie in wait.

She has beaten Muguruza on the big stage in an epic at the 2015 US Open, and won their only meeting on grass at Eastbourne in 2015.

Even better news lies in Konta’s 2-0 record against world number 87 Rybarikova – both victories have been on the grass at Nottingham.

“Head-to-head is more a statistic the media like than something that the players take much notice of. I didn’t during my career,” Clijsters said.

“It does help of course to connect your brain to what happened in those matches, whether I won them or lost them, and what kind of feeling I had. In that kind of sense it helps, but not in the numbers.”

She has the home crowd behind her

Wimbledon 2017: Konta makes history, rain chaos at SW19 & Djokovic roars on

Andy Murray has spoken about the benefit of being backed by a home crowd at a Grand Slam, saying he believes “enjoying it and embracing it can really make the difference”.

Konta, who had only won one match in the women’s main draw at Wimbledon until this year, had never experienced the full effect.

Now she has. Centre Court fans were regularly jumping to their feet during her win against Halep, ramping the noise like they do for Murray and willing her towards victory.

“They were incredible. I cannot complain with the amount of support and their level of feeling towards me,” she said after beating Halep.

Belgium’s Clijsters, who like many players was not able to experience a home Slam, believes the support could “make a difference” for Konta.

“In that tie-break at the end of the second set against Halep, you could feel the crowd sensed that this is where we need to support her – and it worked,” said the former world number one.

“It lifted her.”

She ‘probably feels she can’t lose’

Quarter-final win is surreal – Konta

Clearly, all four players are bang in form. That’s why they have reached the semi-finals.

But, looking at their results over the year, Konta comes out on top.

The Briton is seventh on the WTA’s Road to Singapore leaderboard – the tour’s year-to-date rankings – having won more titles and matches than either Williams, Muguruza or Rybarikova.

“Jo’s game is just fantastic at the moment,” former British number one Sam Smith said.

“The serving is awesome and her groundstrokes are so strong – you just never think she is going to miss a backhand.

“I would say that from the baseline and when she is control of the rally, she is now one of the best in the world.

“She probably feels that she can’t lose right now.”

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