By Ashley Marshall
Throughout the year, USOpenSeries.com will be taking a look at players who could contend or surprise during this year’s Series. Up now: Aussie-born Brit Johanna Konta, who has reached the second week of consecutive Grand Slam events after starting 2015 ranked No. 150 in the world.
The Johanna Konta File
Residence: Eastbourne, England
Current Rank: 27
Career-High Rank: 27 (February 2016)
Best 2015 Series Finish: DNP
In the past six months, Johanna Konta has gone from a Top 200 journeyman to one of the best players in the world. Ironically enough, her surge began following disappointment in front of a home crowd, when she crashed out of 2015 Wimbledon in the first round for the fourth consecutive year.
Because of her ranking, Konta did not qualify for the main draws of the 2015 Emirates Airline US Open Series tournaments. Instead, she hit the Challenger circuit – and caught fire. Playing in ITF Pro Circuit tournaments, one step below tour events, she won 21 of her next 23 matches, capturing an ITF tournament in Granby, Canada, and then a more prestigious title in Vancouver.
Konta arrived at the 2015 US Open Qualifying Tournament with a 10-match winning streak and the confidence to match. After advancing into the main draw, she upset Wimbledon runner-up and No. 9 seed Garbine Muguruza in three sets in the second round before toppling No. 18 Andrea Petkovic in the round of 32. Her run extended into last fall, where she beat world No. 2 Simona Halep on her way to the quarterfinals of Wuhan, China.
After ending 2014 at No. 150 in the rankings, Konta began the 2016 season at a career-high No. 47. That ranking earned her direct entry into the Australian Open, where she upset No. 8 seed Venus Williams in straight sets in her opening match and rallied from a set down to take out No. 21 Ekaterina Makarova in the fourth round. Two days later, she defeated Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai to become the first British woman to reach the last four of a Grand Slam since 1983. Her performance in Melbourne was enough to earn her more than $500,000 and catapult her into the Top 30.
Without overpowering ground strokes or a dominating serve, Konta relies on guile, consistency and touch to outplay her higher-ranked opponents. Which she is doing with ever-increasing frequency. And with few points to defend this spring, there’s every reason to believe the 5-foot-11 right-hander will not only qualify for the main draws of this year’s Series events, she will be seeded and a real threat to take home a trophy or two.