Johanna Konta did her best to downplay expectations on Sunday but there was no quieting the chatter around Melbourne Park that, for the first time in decades, Britain has a genuine contender for the Australian Open women’s crown.
Having been born and raised until her early teens in Sydney has clearly helped the 25-year-old to a higher profile in a host nation desperate for local success, even by proxy, but there are good reasons why the ninth seed is attracting such attention.
A surprise run to the semi-finals at last year’s tournament was followed by a season where Konta won her maiden title at Stanford and moved into the top 10 for the first time, just missing out on a spot at the season-ending WTA Finals.
The chatter reached fever pitch last Friday, however, when Konta simply demolished world number three Agnieszka Radwanska in the city of her birth to claim her second tour title.
Konta’s huge improvement over the last year has come on the back of intensive work on the mental side of her game, so it was no surprise that she was not buying into talk of grand slam titles on Sunday.
“I’m definitely very pleased with the level I played,” she said of the Sydney International final.
“But we all know that it’s not a given. It doesn’t decide how you will do in the next event. I’m taking it as a positive from the week itself, but I’m looking to, again, work hard here and really try to do the best that I can here.”
Virginia Wade was the last Briton to win the Australian Open back in 1972 and her 1977 Wimbledon triumph remains the last in a grand slam by a British woman.