When Johanna Konta reached the Wimbledon semi-final this summer, it marked something of a golden point for the Australian-born player, but sparked a number of arguments amongst the watching public as to the legitimacy of getting behind the foreign-born British No.1. While that argument rightly went mute, it begs the question that without Konta, would women’s tennis in Britain be at all-time low?
One could question that even with the 26-year-old’s talents on the Grand Slam stage, female British tennis is struggling to reach the highs of yesteryear. Born to Hungarian parents Down Under, Konta is ranked at No.7 in the world with Heather Watson the only other Briton inside the top 100.
But Konta is Britain’s best right now, and she is unlikely to have any challengers for that tag soon, a massive concern giving her disappointing first round exit to world No.65 Monica Niculescu at the China Open this week.
First Top 10 win of 2017!
— WTA (@WTA) October 1, 2017
Following that, Konta pulled out of the forthcoming Hong Kong Open and her place in the WTA Finals is in jeopardy. Currently in the eighth and final position to qualify for the end-of-season tournament, Konta could need to pull out all the stops in Moscow to avoid personal and national disappointment, having missed out on a debut qualification for the Finals at the conclusion of the 2016 campaign.
It continues a disappointing run since that miraculous Wimbledon run, having won just two matches across six tournaments since as her 2017 looks to come to an anti-climactic conclusion, a personification of the state of British women’s tennis in the 21st century.
It paints a picture that Konta’s Wimbledon tournament was actually more of a fluke and that she is now returning to her standard level of play, the grass court tournament in front of her home crowd being a career pinnacle as opposed to what fans had hoped would become the norm.
And there is not much else to hang your hats on when it comes to the women’s game in Britain, as despite Konta’s dreadful form, she has no challengers for her No.1 spot.
It's funny b/c when times are good, people support you. But when times are tough people are quiet… And that's when you need them most.
— Heather Watson (@HeatherWatson92) September 29, 2017
Few tennis fans outside of the hardcore select will have heard of the next two in the list, Naomi Broady and Katie Boulter – ranked at 132 and 214 in the world respectively – before the ever-promising but perennially disappointing Laura Robson presently the fifth best from the country, coming in at 246.
It hardly makes pleasant reading for fans of the sport as the 2017 season comes to its conclusion with another grand slam-less calendar year for British women, a run stretching back now to 1977 when Virginia Wade lifted the Wimbledon shield.
Perhaps much of the disappointment stems from the fact that in just 2012, there were four Britons inside the top 100 players for the first time in two decades, but that promise has slowed at an alarming rate.
Konta suffers her fifth loss in a row to Niculescu to crash out of Beijing. 6-1 6-2 to the Romanian – concerning times for the Brit…
— George Bellshaw (@BellshawGeorge) October 1, 2017
Watson, formerly the best the country had to offer, is yet to make it past the third round at any Grand Slam, reaching that stage on three occasions on home turf at Wimbledon but constantly falling short of the second week of the prestigious competition.
Laura Robson’s best showings go one round further at Wimbledon and the US Open, four and five years ago respectively, while Broady and Boulter have never made it past the second round of one of the big four tournaments.
There are of course youngsters coming through every year with teenagers Gabriella Taylor and Katie Swan looking promising, with the latter even reaching the first round of Wimbledon this year at her modest age, but promise is nothing compared to title winning players, of which there are a serious lack in Britain, with the 30-year wait for a Grand Slam winner looking set to continue for at least a few more years.