Johanna Konta is likely to miss out narrowly on participating in the WTA Finals for the third time in four years, after she withdrew from the China Open in Beijing.
Konta cited “slight knee pain” as her reason for skipping Beijing – the Premier Mandatory event that starts on Sept 30. She has already declined to enter Wuhan, which begins next Monday, so she will swerve the whole Asian swing.
It’s not impossible that Konta could still edge in among the top eight players in time for the WTA Finals – which start on Shenzhen on Oct 27 – and thus become the first Briton to participate since Virginia Wade in 1980. She currently stands at No. 11 in the pecking order.
But she would probably need to enter two more events in Europe at the very end of the season, and hope that a couple of the players ahead of her opted not to take up their places. Serena Williams must be considered a doubt, as her coach Patrick Mouratoglou has already said that she will not play before Shenzhen.
Konta was on the edge of qualification for the old WTA Finals venue of Singapore in both 2016 and 2017, only to be edged out by a pair of late runs – the first by Svetlana Kuznetsova, who was such a last-minute qualifier that she had to be ferried straight across from Moscow in a private jet, and the second from Caroline Garcia.
Meanwhile British No. 2 Dan Evans will be heading out to Chengdu in time for next week’s tournament with a new coach on hand. Having dispensed with the services of David Felgate, who also runs the Junior Tennis Coaching operation at Chiswick Riverside, Evans has turned to another member of the JTC staff in Colin Beecher, an experienced operator who has worked with many of the next generation of British players. For the moment, though, the arrangement is only understood to have been set up for the duration of the Asian swing.
Finally, Katie Boulter, the Fed Cup heroine whose season was ruined by a spinal stress fracture, is at last approaching full fitness again. Boulter has not played since overcoming Zarina Diyas in April to clinch a British victory that was later rendered irrelevant by the Fed Cup’s rebrand. In October, she will have been absent from the match court for six months, which will enable her to claim a protected ranking of No. 85 in the world.