A "Manufactured" vs "Naturally Talented" Player
Before Johanna Konta's quarterfinal match v Barbora Strycova, I was listening to John McEnroe's comments and analysis along with Chanda Rubin and Sue Barker. A phrase John used grabbed my attention, he said that "Johanna was a manufactured player." I know talent is subjective in the eyes of whoever is watching.
Anyone who has been following tennis for a long time will know that back in the 1980s McEnroe made a lot of what can be seen as disparaging comments about Ivan Lendl, his greatest rival in major finals. At the time Ivan was seen as someone who didn't have major talent but worked incredibly hard to get to number 1 despite the disparaging remarks from the likes of McEnroe; and took fitness and professionalism to a new level, which a lot of players copied after him. So, when McEnroe said this about Konta I interpreted it as slightly disparaging. Of course, McEnroe is trying to be diplomatic on live television but the overtones to what he thought of Konta's game is quite serious.
And, as the match developed particularly in the second set, it was like watching a major computer malfunction, the computer became stuck displaying the same errors time and again, and there was not enough time to reprogramme the computer to get it back up and running smoothly. John's comments suddenly seem to have more resonance, especially as we saw exactly the same thing happen a month earlier in the French Open semifinal.
Konta's biggest problem besides her nerves has always been her footwork, it just isn't good enough. When nerves kick in, technique or more precisely dodgy technique is always the first to go in a player's game. Her footwork moving up to the short ball is diabolical, hence the amount of short balls she hits almost into the fence. I saw it last year in Eastbourne when I was down there, she did it in the Italian Open final, then Roland Garros and now here, basically when the pressure is on in big moments.
Strycova on the other hand played a mix of a tactical and instinctive game. tactical in that she constantly hit to Johanna's forehand waiting for the inevitable errors, and instintive with the drop shots and the short slices jerking Johanna all over the court.
We have waxed lyrical about the improvements Johanna has made, adding new elements to her game but the question is, if you do not have the natural affinity to do these things, how much better can you actually become to get to the pinnacle and goal of winning a major tournament?