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Crowd pressure will be the undoing of Konta, predicts former Wimbledon ladies champion, Bartoli

 

By Euan Reedie

Johanna Konta should not be considered a Wimbledon favourite as she is unlikely to withstand the "difficult pressure" of home expectations, former All England Club champion Marion Bartoli has claimed.

The 2013 Wimbledon winner believes the British number one, who on yesterday declared herself fit to play today's first-round match after recovering from a spine injury, does not relish the limelight and that "grass is not her best surface".

She says Konta must harness the support of the British crowd and be more aggressive with her groundstrokes if she has to have a shot at Wimbledon glory.

"I think for her the pressure will be difficult to handle. I think she loves to play more in the shadow," Bartoli said ahead of Konta's match with the 109th-ranked Su-Wei Hsieh in the third match on Court 1.

"I don't think she loves the spotlight particularly, so I think that will be a big test for her. I don't think grass is her best surface, either, so I would not put her as a favourite.

"But the crowd, I think, she will have to try to use it as a bonus and really leave her spirit [out on the court], because if you get too much pressure, you just feel too uncomfortable with it and it would be very difficult for her."

Bartoli's comments seem justified in light of the Australia-born 26-year-old's dismal 1-5 win-loss Wimbledon record, with her only victory coming last year.

But the world No 7 has been seeded sixth for the tournament, the highest for a British woman since Virginia Wade in 1979.

Konta also excelled at last week's Eastbourne tournament on grass, reaching the semi-finals after defeating the World No 1 Angelique Kerber in straight sets.

But she was forced to withdraw from her last-four clash with the eventual champion, Karolina Pliskova, after slipping and landing heavily on her back in her 6-3, 6-4 victory over Kerber.

Despite her reservations about Konta's grass-court prowess and resilience under duress, Bartoli says there is much to admire about her game.

"I've commentated on a lot of her matches, especially when she won [the] Miami [Open] earlier this year," said the Frenchwoman.

"I think she's very studied, she's very concentrated on the court. You can see how smart she is outside of the court and she really translates that on the court as well. She never tends to beat herself up and always plays a very solid match.

"Sometimes I feel she can be more aggressive. Sometimes I think her ball is not penetrating enough and just doesn't have enough power, and she'll have to improve in that direction."

Konta's best chance of winning a grand slam is on the Australian Open or US Open hard courts, according to Bartoli.

In the last two years, Konta has reached the semi-finals and quarters in Melbourne and the fourth round twice in New York.

As for her leading contenders at Wimbledon, Bartoli hailed the merits of the Czech duo of the World No 3 Pliskova and the two-time champion, Petra Kvitova.

"I think Pliskova can go really far as she loves to play on a fast surface," said Bartoli, who now works as a television commentator and fashion designer after retiring shortly after winning her one and only grand slam title at SW19.

"But I think Petra Kvitova can be a dark horse, because she has won twice already and she loves that surface obviously."

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