By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Wimbledon title hope Johanna Konta is often parodied for her mantra of “sticking to the process” but, far from being a tennis robot, coach Wim Fissette says when his player goes out on court she can think on her feet.
Sydney-born Konta is four wins away from becoming the first British player to win the Wimbledon women’s title since Virginia Wade in 1977. Just to ramp up the pressure she will also enter the second week wearing the favorites’ tag.
Belgian Fissette, however, says Konta’s ability to play with intuition and not hit the panic button when things go wrong gives her a great chance of winning a first major.
“I give her lots of messages the day before a match and she goes over them with me again before she goes on court, just to make sure it’s all clear,” Fissette, who has worked with Kim Clijsters, Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka, told Reuters.
“But I don’t give her too much information. I’ve had players who are extremely rational and open for statistics.
“Johanna goes more on the feeling. I provide tactics and key points about the match but she follows her intuition a lot and plays freely, which is good because it’s only her on court.
“I remember Kim (Clijsters) was very much a player like that. She didn’t do better with more info. Actually the more free she was to make decisions the better she did,” he added of the former world number one and four-time grand slam winner.
Konta has been impressive so far and came through an intense and high-quality battle with Donna Vekic in the second round.
Dangerous Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia is the next hurdle in the last 16, a player with a fine grasscourt pedigree, but Fissette believes his opposite number, Garcia’s father and coach Louis, will have a tough time figuring out a way to stop Konta.
“I remember when I was with Vika (Azarenka) and she played Johanna in Wuhan and I was trying to analyze Johanna’s game before the match and I found it difficult,” he said.
“She doesn’t really have a weakness and can score from both sides. It was difficult to find a good game plan to beat her.”
Should sixth seed Konta beat Garcia, waiting in the quarter-finals will be either Azarenka or Halep — so inside information will not be in short supply.
“It would be an advantage sure,” said 37-year-old Fissette, who guided Konta to the Miami title this year — her biggest yet. “But to be honest I know when Johanna is playing well she is very tough to beat.
“The good thing is she is very clear about what she needs to do on every ball. She trusts herself fully.”
Konta, 26, took the day off on Saturday to get away from the Wimbledon bubble, Fissette said.
“That was her idea, not mine,” he said. “She is dealing with the expectation very well. She is taking it all in her stride. She is calm and just focusing on the next day.”
Fissette believes Konta’s serve could be the key to her chances of emulating Wade. She is currently winning 78 percent of her first serve points, behind only Americans Venus Williams and Coco Vandeweghe of the last 16 survivors.
“Her serve is massive weapon,” Fissette said. “You don’t see many girls with a serve like that. For sure it’s in the top three in the servers for women.
“It’s not just her first serve. I think a lot of players would like to have a first serve as good as Johanna’s second serve. She trusts it.”
Konta’s rise has given British tennis a two-pronged attack at Wimbledon this year, rather than just relying on Andy Murray, and Fissette says Konta is thriving in the spotlight.
“Garcia will be a tough match, but Johanna can use the energy of the crowd. She has definitely a big chance to win a grand slam. I thought that when I began working with her and nothing has made me change my mind.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)