Johanna Konta: Has she made the right move in splitting with her coach?

Johanna Konta has taken the decision to split with her coach and end her season early. But has she made the right call?

To say Johanna Konta has endured a difficult second half of the season would be a rather considerable understatement. The first half of the season, excluding her continued clay court struggles, was one of almost unbroken success. The British #1 won the biggest title of her career in Miami and reached the final four at Wimbledon. But a heavy defeat at the hands of Venus Williams where Konta managed just six games seemed to damage her confidence. Since then she has won just two matches, both at the Cincinnati Masters and lost first round in Toronto, Flushing Meadows, Tokyo, Wuhan and Beijing. That torrid run saw her fall out of what had been an exceptionally strong position in the Road to Singapore. Garcia of France pipped her to the eighth and final at the WTA’s season ending championships.

That saw Konta announce the end of her season and her decision to split with her coach, Belgium’s Wim Fissette. But has the Briton made the right decision?

The history

This isn’t the first time that Konta has ended a season by splitting with her coach. In fact, at the end of her breakthrough season last year which saw her reach her maiden Grand Slam semifinal and break into the Top 10 for the first time she split with her team of Esteban Carril and Jose-Manuel Garcia. It was a surprising decision considering her breakthroughs in 2016, but one that the results early in 2017 seemed to back up. She made it to the semifinals of her first tournament, losing to eventual champion Siniakova. She backed that up with a title run in Sydney where she did not lose a set throughout, before making it to the last eight in Melbourne. She was defeated there by the eventual champion Serena Williams, but ultimately no doubt was happy with her performances ‘down under’.

Her year got even better when she won in Miami, defeating former world #1 Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets in the final. That win saw her reach a career high ranking of world #7. Her rise continued at Wimbledon where she peaked at world #4 after her aforementioned run to the semifinals. Part of her rise must be attributed to her work ethic and talent. But Fissette appears to have encouraged Konta to adopt a more aggressive style, and dominate with her forehand. Her serve has also continued to improve, and her first delivery is now a real weapon. Moreover, Fissette who had previously worked with Major champions and former world #1’s Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka brought real knowledge of how the best of the best conduct themselves. That advice was surely invaluable to Konta as she sought to rise to the top.

Where did it go wrong and where does Konta go next?

The disappointment of her Wimbledon loss likely stayed with Konta and had an adverse impact on her form as a result. To come so close to what would have been the biggest result for women’s tennis in Britain since the days of Virginia Wade and Sue Barker was certain to leave the sort of mental scars that do not heal overnight. Andy Murray suffered similar dips in form early in his career after big losses. A persistent foot injury that has been hampering Konta for some time also cannot have helped. Indeed, she may well be glad that the end of the season has arrived as it gives her time to rest her foot. 

It also is the perfect time to make a coaching change if required. Coaching arrangements have long been more transitory on the WTA Tour than the ATP meaning a large number of top coaches will likely be looking for employment over the coming weeks. Konta, being the first of the top players to announce that she is looking could have an advantage in having time to select a coach before her pre-season begins. It would certainly be a major surprise if she has not found another coach before she commences her winter training. But as for how long they will last? Well, only Konta knows.

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