<
>

Virginia Wade: Consolidation key for Johanna Konta to strike big

As the 1977 Wimbledon champion, Virginia Wade is still the last British woman to have won a Grand Slam singles title.

But Wade is adamant she could soon lose that status. Jo Konta, who this week propelled herself into the world's top 10, could emulate her next season by becoming the first British woman for 40 years to score a major singles title.

This has been an astonishingly fast rise into the elite by Konta, who just over a year ago had a triple-digit ranking. She is now the first British woman since Jo Durie in 1984 to be inside the top 10 after she made the final of last week's China Open. Now Wade has suggested that Konta, who reached the semifinals of this year's Australian Open, could go further.

"The way the women's game is at present, with the top players being fantastic at times but also inconsistent with their performances, it seems that there is an opportunity for someone with excellent mentality and a steady belief. So Jo seems to have those qualities," Wade told ESPN.

"Whether she can get into the top couple of spots in the rankings and possibly win a major, will to my mind [be determined by] how she paces herself and whether she gets the right balance of tournaments and matches, and of course a slice of luck with opponents. Keeping physically healthy and also keeping fully motivated will be very important."

Wade suggested that Konta, who is playing in Hong Kong this week as she seeks qualification for this month's WTA season finale in Singapore, will need to "consolidate" next year.

"I do believe when you rather suddenly rise higher, it is imperative to consolidate that position rather than to just look forward to more success," she said. "In other words, one has to make sure you beat the opponents ranked lower than yourself and then the next chapter takes care of itself."

Pam Shriver, an ESPN analyst and former US Open finalist, also suggested that Konta needs to establish herself in the elite.

"It's a big 12 months for Konta to consolidate and prove she is more like Angelique Kerber and less like Eugenie Bouchard. I have been tricked frequently in recent years into thinking players were ready to maintain status as a top ten player, or major winner or contender, only to see the player take many backward steps and struggle to recover confidence," Shriver said.

"Sustaining Top-10 play and remaining healthy are both vital to continued success, so let's wait and see for a while longer. This climb has been impressive and I have become a fan of her work ethic and demeanour on the court."

More than anything, Wade has been impressed by Konta's mental approach. "I think it is brilliant how far Jo has come in the last year. The first time I really paid attention to her improvement was last year at Eastbourne, where she showed such resolve on the court, plus a forehand that no longer lets her down on big points," Wade said.

"Now, watching her in the last few weeks play exceptional tennis, I am really impressed not only with those same things but her confidence, concentration and application on the court. I only wish her the best of luck."