Johanna Konta can become Britain’s first female singles champion at Wimbledon in 40 years, according to 18-time grand slam winner Chris Evert.
Konta opens up in the first round against Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh today as she looks to secure only her second singles victory at the All England Club in six years.
The 26-year-old has yet to produce her best at Wimbledon but is still considered one of many capable of capitalising on a wide open women’s draw this summer.
Konta made the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January, having gone to the last four there last year, when she went on to reach the last 16 at the US Open in September.
Evert, who won three singles titles at Wimbledon and is now an analyst for espn.co.uk, believes the British No 1 is a genuine contender for the title.
“I would count her in as a potential winner, absolutely,” Evert said.
“It all depends on Jo Konta’s nerves, how she’s going to play. I think she’s a good grass court player. Her weapons are her serve and her forehand.
“She’s very good at moving forward, coming into the net. She has a good volley. There is no reason why she can’t be a top contender.
“It’s going to come down to her nerves, if she believes it, how she handles the pressure of playing in front of Brits.”
Konta lost to Hsieh, ranked 113th in the world, in the first round of the French Open but she has won 23 matches against top-20 opponents in the last two years.
The world No 7 also indicated yesterday that she had recovered from a nasty fall that caused her to withdraw from Eastbourne on Friday.
Konta rested for a couple of days after injuring her spine in the fall but had a positive practice session yesterday. “I never was thinking that I wasn’t going to [play Wimbledon],” she said.
“I’m recovering really well. I’m taking it a day at a time. I practised today. I felt good. I’m definitely looking forward to playing my first round.”
She goes into Wimbledon as the sixth seed – the highest for a British woman since Virginia Wade in 1979 – and Evert added: “The good news is she’s been in big-match situations and come through. She’s beaten some big names. She’s done well. She deserves to be listed seventh in the world. She’s in the circle of champions.”
Also featuring today is British No 2 Heather Watson, who was ranked 56th in the world this time last year but has dropped to 102nd after a disappointing run of form.
Watson, however, began working with coaches Morgan Phillips and Colin Beecher at the start of the clay-court season and she has enjoyed a revival on grass, reaching the final at Surbiton and semi-finals at Eastbourne last week.
She admits her poor results and lowly ranking have been difficult to stomach. “I felt lost, I felt in limbo, but I have been feeling really good now for a couple of months,” said Watson, who plays Belgian Maryna Zanevska.
“It was very different, your feet get put back on the ground. One tournament there was no water. At these tournaments you are used to just picking up your water bottles from the fridge, and a small thing like that makes such a difference.
“Not having a towel, having to leave deposits for tennis balls and giving them back – it was very different and tough but it motivated me at the same time because that’s not what I want to be doing, playing at that level.
“I want to get back up and climb the rankings again, because I know I’m a good enough player for it and I have been there for a long time. It’s just a little dip and I’ll be back.”
The other British women in action on the first day are Laura Robson, who plays Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia, and Naomi Broady, who will take on Irina-Camelia Begu, of Romania.