British No.1 Johanna Konta is aiming even higher following a second straight season with a Grand Slam semifinal appearance, hiring Michael Joyce ahead of the 2018 season.
“Michael is a fantastic coach with a great pedigree and I’m really excited to work with him,” the Wimbledon semifinalist said in an exclusive interview with The Independent.
Joyce was a longtime coach to five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova, and most recently worked with former WTA World No.1 Victoria Azarenka at the start of her post-motherhood comeback last summer. The duo will make their 2018 debut at the upcoming Brisbane International, where Konta will make her main draw debut.
The Australian summer swing will always be a special time of year for Konta, who made her major breakthrough two years ago at the Australian Open, thrashing Venus Williams en route to the final four.
“I think part of the reason behind me coping better with the attention [at Wimbledon] was the experience and the maturity that I’ve gone through in the last couple of years,” she said. “I think if I hadn’t gone through Australia, if I hadn’t experienced Australia again this year, or even experienced my previous Wimbledons, it would have definitely affected me in a different way.”
Konta and Venus met again at the All England Club, where the American got the better of her for the second time in three 2017 meetings - though the Brit beat Williams on the way to her biggest career title at the Miami Open.
“Since Wimbledon, I have had the experience of people recognising me more,” she said of the increased attention. “I’ve been more aware of the general little hushed conversations or the little nudges people give to each other to point me out, or the staring. I’ve noticed that.
"I walked in and photographs of my face were over the whole news-stand. I literally froze. I felt so self-conscious and so like: ‘Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!’ I didn’t know where to look. I think I ended up standing behind a pillar until my boyfriend joined me. I was like: ‘Help me!’"
Those results came with the help of another big-time coach in Wim Fissette, who previously worked with the likes of Azarenka, Kim Clijsters, and Simona Halep. Hiring Fissette ahead of the 2017 season, Konta announced their split soon after ending her year due to a foot injury.
"Things ended very amicably and I wish Wim all the best," she said at the time. "We’ve achieved a lot together and I want to thank him for all his patience, hard work and expertise."
Konta finished the season ranked No.9, and spent the ensuing weeks at home to recharge.
"I really enjoy being at home, being in my flat, getting to spend time there. Wherever you are able to create a sense of comfort, just a sense of routine and safety, I think that does give you the best chance of performing well."