Marion Bartoli believes mental resilience and technical improvements have helped Johanna Konta thrive on clay at the French Open.
The British number one had lost in the first round the last four years but now finds herself one of 16 women left in the draw and preparing to take on Croatia’s Donna Vekic in the fourth round on Sunday.
After nearly two years of many more downs than ups following her run to the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2017, Konta has again put herself in the picture as a player who can challenge for the biggest titles.
Bartoli, the Wimbledon champion in 2013 and working here for Eurosport, said at a press event hosted by the channel: “I think her rise at some point was too fast and she was not able to handle everything that was coming with this.
“She is having now a better base. Her game from the back of the court is technically better. She has switched her technique a tiny bit, not much, but a tiny bit. I think she has become stronger from the back of the court.
“She is serving better and she comes to the net slightly more. Before she had a tendency to fall into the same patterns, over and over. Her game became very predictable. I think she has been able to have a little switch, and she has made more cross-court, a bit more topspin on the forehand.
“When you lose a bit of confidence and the other girls know where you’re going to play, it becomes very difficult to win matches.”
Four-time grand slam champion Kim Clijsters has been impressed by Konta’s willingness to work on her clay-court game.
“At times when you watch her she overthinks,” said Clijsters. “She had great results at Wimbledon a couple of years ago and a lot of attention on her and the pressure that comes with that.
“She’s working hard and she’s also learning about herself in certain situations. I think that’s the process of becoming a better tennis player.
“She’s not the player who you can compare with Justine Henin or Amelie Mauresmo back in the day, or Simona Halep, who could use a lot of slices, but I do see that she’s working on playing on clay, the way that she’s sliding towards balls a little bit better.
“I think it takes time. She’s working hard at it and I think that’s the most important thing. On the one side you have a guy like (Nick) Kyrgios, who has every talent but doesn’t put the work in, then you have somebody like Johanna who maybe doesn’t have the talent but is working very hard at it.
“I think that’s the most important thing. At times it can get you a lot further.”
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