Wimbledon 2017: Johanna Konta must make fans’ energy work

Johanna Konta: feeling calm and ready.Picture: Getty.
Johanna Konta: feeling calm and ready.Picture: Getty.
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As Wimbledon moves towards the business end of the competition, everyone is worried about Johanna Konta and her nerves: can she take the strain of being Britain’s best home hope of a female champion since Virginia Wade 40 years ago?

But no one has thought to ask after her coach, Wim Fissette. And he is getting nervous. He has coached the likes of Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka, both former grand slam champions and world No. 1s, so he certainly knows his stuff but it does not stop the nerve endings from jangling.

“I always feel pressure,” he admitted. “I’m very nervous because I have this mentality also because I want to win every match as a coach. Yeah, I’m nervous.”

Today, Konta faces Caroline Garcia for a place in the quarter-finals. She is playing well, she is coping with the hype and the hoopla and even though she will not admit it publicly, Fissette thinks his charge believes she can win the title.

“She will not express it but for sure she is confident in her game and she is confident about herself,” he said. “Yeah, I think [she thinks she can win].”

Keeping Konta on an even keel at Wimbledon is a 24 hour a day job. But Fissette does not want to go too far. In SW19, she has the crowd on her side. The further she goes in the draw, the more the spectators are getting to know her (she had only ever won one match at the All England Club before this year). Now he wants her to use that support rather than shut it out in case it becomes an added pressure.

“I think she can still do that more,” he said. “But for her it’s still difficult. It’s still new. I think she has to learn how to appreciate it more and use it more as a positive energy to her. I think she’s growing also in that way, of feeling the energy of the fans, because before she was just trying to be in herself. But I’m 100 per cent sure that using the fans in the right way can help you in difficult moments.”

Konta has played Garcia four times and won twice. But in Indian Wells this year, Konta lost to the Frenchwoman in three tortuous sets. After much discussion afterwards, Konta and her coach came to the conclusion that everyone is human and it was just a bad day. Coming into this match, Fissette is not concerned.

“You can do as many breathing exercises on court as you want, but days will come when it is just hard to control your emotions – that was a day like that,” he said.

“I see Caroline as a really, really talented player. There are a lot of positives, but also some less positive things. She has got a great game with some big strokes but also she does not always use her shots at the right moment and her decision-making. I don’t think is that good.”

Manic Monday is upon us; Konta is calm and ready. Up in the players’ box, Fissette will be the nervy one, biting his fingernails.