August 28, 2020
So near yet so far for Jo Konta.
As it turned out, Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the final due to hamstring trouble meant Victoria Azarenka won the Western and Southern Open by virtue of her win over the Brit.
In the end it wasn’t to be for Konta. Her hopes gradually faded despite a great start in her semi-final against Azarenka.
She was ahead after finally converting her eighth set point in the opener.
But the mental energy Konta had expended, while squandering so many chances to close out that first set, soon began to take a toll.
The momentum in the match had already shifted somehow. And the big star from Belarus launched a powerful fight-back.
Frustratingly, Konta overhit at times, even when she wasn’t under obvious pressure.
To see Jo in full flow has been something to enjoy this week, though. She can do well in the US Open too.
And we can’t wait to see her strike the ball so sweetly at Wimbledon 2021.
It’s easy to see why she wanted to remain uninhibited in her strokeplay against Azarenka, whatever the cost.
But in the end it was a gamble that didn’t pay off. And she never quite regained her composure once exchanges stopped going her way.
The mental side of tennis is what Konta must work on if she wants to make another massive impact at Wimbledon 2021.
She has still had a wonderful week in New York. To reach the semi-final is a notable achievement.
We congratulate her for that. Particularly after such a long lay-off.
The question is, how badly does Konta want to convert future semi-finals into finals?
She can appear careless at times, even when she seems to have done the hard part by building a winning platform.
Shot selection, control and point management sometimes slip away just when victory appears within her grasp.
A calm but brutal killer instinct under pressure is what she must develop in order to reach and win more finals.
Everyone wants to see Jo take the next step.
On the tricky subject of match psychology, Konta she can be sensitive to well-meant and constructive criticism.
She believes in the power of positive thinking. And of course that’s a good thing.
She wants only positivity around her. Indeed she demands it and excludes all else.
But sometimes that makes it harder to face the reality of a weakness or wrong that clearly needs to be addressed.
Let’s hope Jo can strengthen further still. We are all behind her.
Meanwhile Azarenka’s confidence only grew as the match progressed. She knew she had won the psychological battle even before the second set was done.
Konta was up against a fine opponent, of course.
And Jo can point to her excellent win in the quarter-finals against Maria Sakkari to remind us just what she can do when she is on-song.
She is a serious contender in any match she plays. Britain can be proud of her.
On this occasion, however, Azarenka had more grit and desire to draw upon. Ultimately she won the match 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Her reward, as it turned out, was the title itself.
It was a shame for Osaka. She is no stranger to winning finals at Flushing Meadows.
Remember when she beat Serena Williams to win the US Open?
That seems a long time ago. In the last year, Osaka often seems to have carried the weight of the world on her shoulders.
It would be amazing to see the Japanese superstar lift another title soon.