Johanna Konta: What has gone wrong for the British number one?

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British number one Johanna Konta exits Wimbledon
Wimbledon 2018 on the BBC
Venue: All England Club, Wimbledon Dates: 2-15 July
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, Connected TVs and the BBC Sport website and app; Live Radio 5 live and 5 live sports extra commentary; Text commentary online.

How Johanna Konta must wish she could have bottled up what elevated her into the top four last year.

Her world was so very different back then. The nation finally believed it had a commanding figure in the women's game - a player who followed up a semi-final appearance in the 2016 Australian Open with a last-four appearance at Wimbledon, the first British female to do so since 1978.

'You Beauty' hailed The Sun, while her favourite band U2 tweeted a message of support.

For the Australian-born player with Hungarian roots, the run at the All England Club was the perfect way to underline her allegiance, and she finished the year with two WTA titles and more than £2m in prize money.

But those heady days are long gone. Konta split with coach Wim Fissette after last year's Wimbledon and hired Maria Sharapova's former coach Michael Joyce at the start of the season, but it has just not clicked for the 27-year-old this season.

A dig at the media during May's French Open and a spat with the umpire during June's Nottingham Open final has only further exacerbated the situation.

Thursday's defeat by Dominika Cibulkova, who had herself endured a slump in the past year, is just another blow for the Briton who will fall from her current ranking of 24 once the Grand Slam ends.

So what has happened? Will she ever find herself back in the top 10? Or is there no way back?

Is Konta easily affected by the media?

Jo Konta
Jo Konta won in Sydney and Miami last year but has yet to win a WTA title in 2018

Following her first-round defeat at May's French Open, Konta suggested the media were repeatedly negative about her displays, using strong language to describe her critics.

Belgian tennis great Kim Clijsters, who won four Grand Slam titles between 2005 and 2011, told BBC Sport she was thick-skinned during her playing days and advised Konta to let it "go in one ear and out the other".

"When there is stuff written about you that you know you're the opposite of, it's frustrating," said the 35-year-old. "She needs to learn to deal with it and not let it get to her mentally.

"The press is very negative - I saw it with Tim Henman and Andy [Murray] for a while. I guess you can look at it as an honour because you are seen as someone who can beat the best tennis players.

"At times it's hard to juggle - the team tells you stay calm, but it's the hour you go to press and all the questions are thrown at you. It's those negative questions that make you think about the past - things you don't want to think about any more."

Clijsters, who said her own "open approach" with the media benefitted her, added that eliminating negative thoughts was not a simple process for some.

"The more people say to forget about it the more you think about it," continued the Belgian.

"You have to find different things to think about - for me it was yoga and breathing exercises. I know she likes to bake - I'm sure to her it makes her forget a lot of stuff. Everybody has to find what works for them."

'She didn't make the mistakes she is making now'

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Wimbledon 2017: Johanna Konta beats Simona Halep - highlights

Former British player Sam Smith, who watched the defeat unfold on Centre Court on Thursday, said Konta currently does not have "the game to disrupt".

"Jo doesn't have the variety of spin, slice or pace - she is confused as to what is her best game," the 46-year-old told BBC Sport.

"When we saw her here last year and in the 18 months leading up to the tournament, she had a set plan which was to hit crosscourt and find the line.

"It was a formula she repeated time and time again and she didn't make the mistakes she is making now."

But according to Smith, the imminent slide down the world order might be the tonic for Konta.

"I think there is always an upside," she added. "The way to release the pressure is to lose and go down the rankings. Have a rethink. Maybe now she can play with some freedom."

'She needs a Plan B, even a Plan C'

Former Fed Cup captain Judy Murray told BBC Radio 5 live that Konta had more variety in her game, but was struggling to apply it in a match situation.

"She was working on finding a defensive game - a slice, chip and a drop-shot to bring the opponent forward and she's developed her serve really well," said the Scottish coach.

"But it's one thing being able to do it in practice, and another trusting it during a match.

"You need to have things in your locker, so you have a Plan B or Plan C. I've watched [Australian world number 17 player] Ash Barty, who has those plans. She developed that as she grew up. Jo and her team will have look at a way of adding things on the match court."

'Konta has the attributes to climb back up'

Clijsters, who said she personally never experienced a slump in her career, said Konta convinced her in 2017 that she had the right qualities to beat the best in the world.

"It's a work in progress - nobody goes through their career where it's one smooth ride," added the three-time US Open champion.

"It's about how you deal with the bumps that makes you get to the highest level and which will help her get back to number four in the world - it's all confidence and it's all mental.

"When I watched Jo play last year I was very impressed - she beat Donna Vekic and then Caroline Garcia and I was very impressed.

"It's still there inside Jo - it's still there."

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