Johanna Konta making strides with British public after latest Wimbledon showing

LONDON -- It might only have been a second-round win but Johanna Konta's Centre Court triumph against Donna Vekic was a turning point.

The fact that it took the world No. 7 into the Wimbledon third round for the first time was a breakthrough, for sure, but more important was the step forward she seemed to make in her relationship with the British public.

Konta, born in Sydney to Hungarian parents, has sometimes been a hard sell for fans. But an updated version emerged on Wednesday who had the potential to inspire a generation; she was like an assured director of a great sporting drama, feeding off and engaging with the passionate crowd as she plotted a nail-biting storyline.

"Jo is such a great role model for a professional athlete," said Judy Murray, Britain's former Fed Cup captain who helped son Andy make the transition from potential great to the real thing.

"She's methodical, clinical with what she does, and her work ethic and focus is incredible. The Vekic match, when she was back-to-the-wall a couple of times and got herself out of sticky situations, you saw the determination, but also the calmness that hasn't always been there.

"The public will start to engage more, the more they see of her. It's a relatively short space of time that she has been at the top, and you have to learn to live there."

Konta broke into the top 10 only this past October, and her best Grand Slam performances have come in Australia and America, with hard courts generally regarded as her best surface. But making progress at Wimbledon this year, and talking about her enjoyment of a home slam, baking and ice baths, should endear her to supporters.

Something has changed, and if she goes further and takes advantage of an open, Serena Williams-less field, the impact she could make in the UK could be huge.

Figures for girls taking up tennis in the UK, as well as women coaches and executives, have been concerning enough for the governing body here, the Lawn Tennis Association, to talk about launching a new development strategy for the female side of the game this year.

Regular change at the top of the organisation in recent years hasn't helped, but something needs to be done: it's been 40 years since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon, and that was Britain's last Grand Slam win on the women's side.

"I don't think players have always been handled as well as they could have been in getting them the right environment and support," said former British No. 1 Sam Smith.

"Everyone talks about the LTA having all that money but most of it went to the men in the 1980s and '90s. A lot of other tour players thought we were so well looked after, and we weren't."

The LTA has long been the fortunate recipient of much of the Wimbledon surplus, with the current deal ensuring that it is paid 90 percent of the highly lucrative tournament's profits.

The payment last year was £37.7 million ($48.8 million), and double-digit millions have been the norm for some time. However, the organisation has been criticised in the past for being ineffective, with Andy Murray among those to have weighed in.

Judy Murray has also been outspoken but now runs initiatives for girls and female coaches alongside the LTA, with a view to increasing grassroots numbers.

At the elite end, Konta has said she wouldn't have scaled such heights without the fulsome LTA backing she received for the three years after she became a British citizen, in 2012. She's had issues with the body since, but is an ambassador for its female programme and is involved with two development initiatives.

"Hopefully her success will pull up the Heather Watsons and Laura Robsons, who have enormous potential but haven't fulfilled it yet," Smith said. "To be British No. 1 now, you have to be a top-10 player, and that's very good development.

"Jo is also a wonderful role model if you are 8 or 9 years old and working out what you have to do, and what your parents have to do to support you, to be a top player."

Not many could follow Konta's international journey to the top, but the dedication she and her parents have shown to her now-flourishing career has been remarkable.

Perhaps having to work so hard to get to where she is has made her less colourful, and therefore less marketable, off court.

But Judy Murray has seen potential there, too. "It is really important for the players at the top to give back and be part of growing the game," she said at an HSBC event.

"That means how they portray themselves is important; the people around them can help them see the things they ought to do to be an ambassador for their sport.

"Jo has the potential, but it will take a little bit of time. Let her play her tennis and have that do her talking. As she settles into that top 10 and being a Grand Slam contender, I'm sure we will see her coming into her own."