Johanna Konta is the No6 seed and has been installed as favourite to win the women’s singles by the bookies, but faces a tough match against Caroline Garcia on Monday. Photograph: James Gourley/Rex/Shutterstock
Garcia was 17 and ranked 188 in the world when she gave Maria Sharapova an unexpected fright in the second round of the 2011 French Open. She was a set and 4-1 up before the Russian finally mastered the swirling wind and won 11 games in a row to prevail 3-6, 6-4, 6-0.
Andy Murray was as impressed as anyone with the Lyon teenager, tweeting during the match: “The girl sharapova is playing is going to be number one in the world one day caroline garcia, what a player u heard it here first.”
Garcia has matured more slowly than Murray imagined, contending with the usual mix of form, injuries and faltering self-belief, but, 23 now and ranked 22 in the world, she is playing well enough to represent a significant threat to Konta.
In 2011, Konta was 21 and barely on Murray’s radar after her Hungarian-born parents had migrated from Australia to Eastbourne. That day in Paris, she was 334 in the rankings. On her debut in a main draw on the WTA circuit that year, she lost in the first round in Copenhagen. She lost in qualifying four times, picking up a couple of titles in the ITF circuit and wondering, with justification, where her career was heading.
Six years on, Sharapova – who lost to Li Na in the semi-finals of that French Open after the win against Garcia – is off the Tour again, injured when her comeback from a 15-month drugs ban stalled in Rome. All of that goes into the mix as a backstory but what matters far more is the present.
Konta is the sixth seed here and playing the sort of tennis that could carry her to the final weekend. After seeing off the young Greek prospect Maria Sakkari in straight sets on Friday, she remained in her now famous bubble of realism but she appreciates how much her tennis life as changed.
She agreed she is now “a warrior” and said: “It’s definitely something I’m trying to do. With the way the game is developing, there are very few things now that set players apart. You really do try to maximise every single part of you and the competitiveness is a part of that.
“It becomes a much more in-depth development at the top of the game. Everyone can hit forehands and backhands and everyone can move and produce things tennis-wise. For me, the main thing is to make sure I maximise myself physically, mentally and emotionally to try and become the best I can be.”
That can make her sound like a programmed machine, which is a common observation. But there is no denying the underlying passion she brings to her game. She will need all of it to overcome Garcia, who looked good beating the American Madison Brengle in the third round.
It would not matter to Konta who was across the net, though. In the absence of the pregnant Serena Williams, there is no clear favourite – whatever the bookies have said about her own chances. “I look at everyone in that way. Everybody knows how to play, compete and maximise their abilities and everyone is out there to beat me. I go up against every single player to have a battle.”