It was on British grass in 2015 that the talented Konta began making headlines, still ranked around 150 but reaching the quarters at Nottingham and the quarters in her adopted home of Eastbourne with wins over No8 Ekaterina Makarova and No20 Garbine Muguruza, who went on to reach the final at Wimbledon two weeks later and end that season at No3.
That grass season proved to be just the beginning for the fast-improving Konta. With two ITF titles under her belt, she went on to make the fourth round at the US Open via qualifying—beating Muguruza and Andrea Petkovic in the process. Then in Wuhan, she beat No2 Simona Halep and pressed Venus Williams to a 7-5 third set in the quarters, breaking the top 50 by the end of the season.
With her fitness and confidence boosted for 2016, she began last year with a bang in a semi run of the Australian Open. And while clay did not yield her best, Konta again performed on Eastbourne’s grass, beating former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova to reach the semis.
It was back on hard courts that she won her first title, in Stanford, then she made a consistent run of quarters in Montreal, the Olympics, and the US Open, before her best run at the elite WTA tier, the Premier Mandatories, in Beijing. She ended the year as the first British woman to break the top 10 since Jo Durie 30 years before.
And this year has already broken new ground through a 12-2 opening run to the Shenzhen semis, the Sydney title, and the Australian quarters, where a tough draw brought her to grinding halt against the eventual champion, Serena Williams.
Next weekend, Konta will spearhead the British Fed Cup campaign in Estonia, where the team will attempt to lift Great Britain out of Europe/Africa Group 1. And from there, she will be her first appearance at the prestigious Dubai Duty Free Championships where, in the absence of Williams, she is sure to be one of the favourites for the title.
But come the grass season, she will again garner huge support in one of favourite swings of the year, and the 25-year-old has urged British fans to turn out in force to cheer her on:
“The grass-court season is one of my favourites and this series of tournaments ahead of Wimbledon provides great preparation opportunities for me.
“Playing in front of a passionate crowd that is fully behind you is a special experience that not many players get: I know how lucky I am to be able to do that. The home fans really can make all the difference so I hope lots of people come out to cheer!
“Tournaments like Birmingham, Eastbourne, and Nottingham have such an incredible history, you just need to look at the rolls of honour to see that, and you can sense that when you step on court. With the recent commitment to a bigger and better series, hopefully this great tradition will continue for many years to come.”
She had particularly affectionate words for Eastbourne, where her parents settled after Konta moved to a tennis academy in Spain at the age of 14.
“Playing at Devonshire Park is very special. I can’t wait to get back on the courts, just a stone’s throw from my family home. I’ve seen exciting plans for the future of the venue, and with the men coming back this year it will no doubt add extra excitement. It’s always an amazing player field, and I’m sure the fans will enjoy lots of world class tennis.”
The Aegon Open Nottingham, The Aegon Classic Birmingham, and The Aegon International Eastbourne, along with the Aegon Championships Queen’s, make up British Tennis’ enhanced grass court season for June in 2017, beginning in Nottingham on 10 June.
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