Johanna Konta isn’t the sort to be seen down the bookies – which is just as well considering she’s fast becoming the favourite at Wimbledon.
Konta progressed to the second week for the first time with a convincing 6-4, 6-1 win over the Greek world number 101 Maria Sakkari at the All England Club.
The British number one is an expert at not getting ahead of herself and is steadfastly refusing to think about anything beyond her fourth round opponent on Monday.
You need to go back to Jo Durie in the early 1980s to find the last home women’s player to arrive here with such high hopes.
But, whisper it quietly, hope is slowly being replaced by expectation, with Tim Henman and Davis Cup captain Leon Smith both claiming they believe she’s now the one to beat.
“I’m pretty sure favourites come and go and they change daily,” said Konta.
“I’ve said that everyone in the draw is in with a chance of taking the title.
“I’m just happy to have actually made it into the second week, happy to come through three battles. I’m taking it one match at a time but I’m definitely working towards staying involved for a full fortnight.
“I don’t spend too much time listening to people’s opinions about me, I’m just out there giving my best. However, it’s a massive compliment to have former players think highly of me.”
After a third set battle against Croatia’s Donna Vekic, this was an accomplished and near flawless performance. She broke her opponent in the very first game and never really looked back. She had too much power, too much guile and too much support.
Next up is French 21st seed Carolina Garcia, who reached the quarter-final of her home Slam at Roland Garros last month, a career best.
The pair have played four times and honours are even at two matches apiece. Garcia narrowly won their last encounter at Indian Wells but Konta had been victorious in the previous two, including a straight sets cruise at last year’s Rio Olympics.
Another win would take her into the last eight of a major tournament for only the second time in her career – cue more flag-waving optimism.
Six years ago Garcia, then just 17, was hailed as the ‘future world number one’ by Andy Murray. With a big serve and elegant range of groundstrokes, she possesses all the skills but her career has failed to ignite as predicted.
“She’s a very good player and she’s playing with a lot of confidence right now,” added Konta.
“I don’t anticipate anything different, other than a really, really tough battle for me.”
Konta remains refreshingly unshowy, still driving her red Peugeot hatchback, but don’t doubt her determination or steel.
The British number one has long had a desire for self-improvement, with her single-minded focus on tennis meaning she was home schooled from the age of 12. She talks about her ’18-year tennis career’, which is surprising considering she is only 26.
“I think I’m playing some good tennis but I don’t think I’m playing unbelievable tennis,” she added.
“I’m competing with the mindset of just trying to get better, like I have done every other match I’ve played in my career.
“I believe every single woman in the draw is a threat. I think it’s been proven time and time again that everyone can play at a high level on any given day.
“I’m loving the support that I’m getting, it’s so special. I just hope they’re enjoying the matches that I’m playing as much as I am.”
Four British players had reached the third round of Wimbledon for the first time since 1997.
However, there was disappointment for Heather Watson, who pushed two-time Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka the distance before going down 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Centre Court.
Watson had not taken a set off a player, who many are talking up as a top challenger for the title, in four previous meetings but this was still a much improved performance after a disappointing year.
“I was very upset after that match,” said Watson, who started the defence of her mixed doubles with a win against Azarenka a few hours later.
“I’ve got to the third round a few times in different Slams and I really wanted to make that push for the second week. I gave myself a big chance and I’m sad that I didn’t take it.
I’ve been feeling so great about my game, I just feel like I’ve fallen at the same hurdle again and it hurts.
“One of my goals at the end of the grass court season was to get back into the world’s top 100 and make the main draw of the US Open and I’m pleased I’ve done that because it will make a big difference.”
Elsewhere, Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller, the 16th seed, beat British number one Aljax Bedene 7-6, 7-5, 6-4 to leave defending champion Andy Murray as the sole British representative in the men’s singles draw.
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