Johanna Konta’s dream run at Wimbledon came to an end as the supreme Venus Williams showed her class and experience in a straight sets win. Konta’s defeat ends the British interest in the singles at Wimbledon, and with a handful of players left in the Mixed Doubles, the overall feeling is that it’s been a very good tournament for the Brits with four players making the Quarter Finals and beyond. The question now is where does British tennis go from here and what does the future look like?
Konta and Watson take the limelight
British interest was firmly planted on the women’s draw this year as Johanna Konta and Heather Watson put fantastic displays of tennis on show.
After only one victory in four previous tournaments, Konta finally made her breakthrough at her home slam as fans finally got to see the world class player we’ve seen abroad over the last 18 months. Her resilience and shot play won over the Centre Court crowd and it was great to see Jo finally have her ‘Wimbledon moment’ against Donna Vekic in that epic second round match. This was followed by other moments against Caroline Garcia and Simona Halep until she ultimately faced a determined Venus Williams. It feels that fans finally know who Johanna Konta is, despite having made excellent runs in the Australian and US Open, and it’s great to see her truly introduce herself to the British public.
Her compatriot, Heather Watson, also found her form on the grass. After an incredible run to the semi finals in Eastbourne, Watson played near to her best against Zanevska and Sevastova. Her performance against Victoria Azarenka on Centre Court echoed that performance against Serena Williams, but it feels this close defeat won’t send Watson into a downward trajectory in the rankings. Watson only has 40 ranking points to defend from now until the end of the year, so she has a really good chance to push up towards the top 50, if not the top 30. Keep an eye out for Hev in the next three months!
British men ultimately disappoint
It was clear Andy Murray was carrying an injury throughout the tournament and as a result, British optimism on the men’s side of the draw felt a bit flat. Despite a fantastic showing from Murray to reach the Quarter Finals once more, it was clear his body had taken its toll in the defeat to Sam Querrey. Despite making the Quarter Finals, it is clear that British tennis might not be as bright as we maybe thought before the tournament.
Ok, I feel it could be a tad harsh given Aljaz Bedene reached the same stage as Heather Watson, and the Brit did have a fantastic tournament. However, he didn’t really trouble Gilles Muller and you feel that it’ll be difficult for Bedene to get beyond the first week in a Slam.
There was also a sense of disappointment for Kyle Edmund who failed to build on his third round run at Roland Garros. Despite defeating qualifier Alex Ward, Edmund didn’t really look like beating Gael Monfils. Kyle should’ve taken Monfils a bit closer in hindsight, especially considering the Frenchman’s disappointing collapse against Adrian Mannarino. Edmund has a lot to prove going into the US hard courts and faces the biggest challenge in his short career so far, defending fourth round points at the US Open. We know grass isn’t Edmund’s favourite court, but if he is Britain’s biggest hope for another breakthrough player then he needs to learn to love the surface, otherwise we might be disappointed in years to come. However, like Bedene, this is a tad harsh as Kyle is still young and doesn’t deserve the weight of expectation all British players who show off their talent receive.
As for James Ward and Brydan Klein, there’s little to write about, really.
Skupski brothers prosper but fail to make headlines
Ken and Neal Skupski had a fantastic tournament this year. The British wildcards were the only Brits to make the Quarter Finals in both the men’s and women’s doubles tournaments. Despite dismantling eighth seeds Bopanna and Roger-Vasselin, and reaching their maiden Quarter Finals, there were astonishingly no headlines for the Scouse brothers.
In fact, all eyes once again were on Marcus Willis, who despite failing to qualify to the main draw still made all the headlines. That’s because he and young Brit Jay Clarke knocked out the defending champions Mahut and Herbert – ok so they did deservedly grab the limelight.
Yet, to not promote the Skupskis in the Quarter Finals felt like a big disservice to both the players and British tennis, especially given the coverage Jamie Murray, Willis and Clarke received for earlier exits. Hopefully, the BBC will take this on board and start to show better coverage for this British pair and they continue their good form into the American swing.
Lots of work ahead for juniors
So we had a Semi Finalist in the Women’s draw, a Quarter Finalist in the Men’s and two Quarter Finalists in the Men’s Doubles. The future is good, right? Ever the pessimist, maybe not so much…
None of the British juniors reached beyond the third round in a disappointing show in the Boys’ and Girls’ tournaments. While expectations were low in the Boys’, we still had good showings from Aidan McHugh and George Loffhagen, both reaching round three. However, all the Brits in the draw required wild cards which should ring the alarm bells for the LTA.
In the Girls’ draw, hopes were rightly much higher with Emily Appleton and Katie Swan both in the main draw. However, neither reached beyond the third round, with Appleton disappointingly exiting in round two. Another talented British prospect, Jodie Burrage, was eliminated in round one.
It’s clear that the LTA has to build on Konta and Murray’s success and these next 12 months could be pivotal for the future of British tennis. After a good tournament for the Brits, a lot of work still remains for the LTA to bring the next generation through, work that is heightened though disappointing junior performances.