Sport

Review of British Women’s Tennis 2013

With the season-ending WTA Championships taking place in Istanbul this week and no British participation, now seems like a good time to review how British women have performed in 2013 after an encouraging 2012.

Laura Robson cemented her position as the highest ranked British woman despite a stop-start season. Robson ended last season ranked 53 and is currently ranked 46. Although a slight improvement, if compared to other young tennis stars like the extremely talented Sloane Stephens, it is less impressive. Just a few months older, Stephens has seen her ranking move from a high of 38 at the end of 2012, to just missing out on a place in Istanbul at number 11.

Robson’s lack of consistency has been her major issue. Reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon and the third round at the US Open and the Australian Open were all good achievements but it remains a mystery why she has been unable to maintain that form in the lesser events. Robson’s coach at the beginning of the year, Zeljko Krajan, has questioned her work ethic. Having recently split with her second coach of the season, Miles Maclagan, Robson needs to take her time in choosing her next coach, who will have to bring the stability that Laura has lacked this year. Swedish coach Thomas Hogstedt has shown in interest in Robson; he was at the helm of Maria Sharapova’s career as the Russian completed a career grand slam by winning the 2012 French Open. However, it is important that Robson does not select her coach on reputation alone— it did not work out particularly well when Andy Murray hired Brad Gilbert as his coach earlier in his career.

Her forehand is feared and her serve, when firing correctly, can be one of the greatest in the game but Robson needs to show a willingness and dedication that is not yet apparent if she wants to fulfil her obvious potential.

Robson needs to show a willingness and dedication if she wants to fulfil her potential.

Johanna Konta transferred her allegiances to Great Britain from Australia in 2012 and has since become the second ranked British woman, currently at number 112. Finishing 2012 ranked 153, Konta has made some good progress coming through qualification rounds to make the second round of both the Australian Open and the French Open this year. Konta has had a strong end to the season in Asia reaching quarter finals in Ningbo and Guangzhou. July saw Johanna Konta win two consecutive ITF titles (the second tier of women’s events) in Winnipeg and then in Vancouver. The previous month, Konta had made the semi-final of Nottingham’s own ITF event at the Nottingham Tennis Centre, opposite the Trent Building. Konta also represented Great Britain in a singles rubber in the crucial play-off tie that the side eventually lost in Argentina.

The pressure on Konta is certainly less than it is on both Laura Robson and Heather Watson and she can make the most of this as she looks to progress her career in 2014. Becoming firmly established in the top 100 and therefore, gaining automatic entry into the grand slam events has to be a real priority.

Heather Watson has had a particularly disappointing season in 2013. Since recovering from a bout of glandular fever in the middle of the year, Watson has not managed to recover the form that saw her end 2012 as the British number one and world number 49. Watson seemed to be a bit confused with which direction she was taking when she announced that she would be taking a break from the sport only to retract that statement shortly afterwards. Like Robson, she split with her coach Mauricio Hadad in July and is currently without a coach. Watson would certainly benefit from a stable coaching set up in the next year.

Her recent results have been extremely disappointing. In her last seven tournaments, Watson has recorded just one victory. She should be concerned by her defeat to the young American, Madison Keys, in the first round of Wimbledon. Keys is younger than Watson and has pushed her ranking up to 36. I would think she would be relieved to see the end of the 2013 season and regroup ready for the season opening Australian Open next year. One thing that Watson is known for is her determination and fight. It will not always make up for the lack of natural talent that the likes of Laura Robson and Sloane Stephens possess, but it should help to see her back in the top 100 sooner rather than later.

 One thing that Watson is known for is her determination and fight.

Samantha Murray and Tara Moore complete the top 5 British women. Murray has had a strong year and her ranking as moved from 283 at the end of 2012 to 169 currently. Moore showed much promise in her early career and is still only 21. She finished 2012 ranked 249 and is currently 209.

2014 may not begin with the same enthusiasm for women’s tennis in Britain that 2013 did, but if Robson can find some consistency, there is no reason why she cannot be making the latter stages of the major tournaments. Watson on the other hand needs to focus on gaining back the confidence that she has lost in 2013. She has the ability to be a top 50 player and certainly has the right attitude and desire, but she needs to get a few good wins in the Australian Open warm up events in order to generate some momentum.

Yannick Mitchell

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21-year-old Ameri-Czech student of Politics & Economics at the University of Nottingham. Sports Editor @impactmagazine. FFC worshipper. European.

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