Johanna Konta sacks coach Michael Joyce after falling down world rankings

Simon Briggs
The Telegraph
Johanna Konta and her former coach Michael Joyce during this summer's Wimbledon - PA
Johanna Konta and her former coach Michael Joyce during this summer's Wimbledon - PA

Johanna Konta, the British No 1, has for the third time in as many years made a late-season decision to sack her coach.

In this case, the ousted Michael Joyce has already moved on, setting up a trial period with former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard.

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Konta’s previous splits came as a surprise, as in both 2016 and 2017 she had earned seven-figure sums while finishing in the world’s top 10 and reaching a grand-slam semi-final.

But for much of 2018, Joyce has been seen as a man with a limited lifespan. His partnership with Konta never really convinced, even though she supported him enthusiastically every time his name came up in a press conference.

Konta has slipped back considerably in the world rankings since they joined forces during the off-season, dropping from No 9 at the start of the year to No 45 now.

It should be said, however, that Joyce did not trigger this slide. He merely failed to arrest it. The trouble really began in the late summer of 2017, soon after Konta’s career-best run to the semi-finals of Wimbledon.

A demoralising defeat to the unheralded Aleksandra Krunic at last year’s US Open was the trigger for a crisis of confidence, and the exit of Joyce’s predecessor Wim Fissette.

During this year’s US Open, where Konta was eliminated in the first round by Caroline Garcia without much fuss, she again emphasised the positives about her partnership with Joyce.

“I feel happy with the relationship we have,” Konta said. “Coming into this year I was in a very unhappy place. The number one job was to get me into a happy place. I feel definitely that we've achieved that.”

Yet the very fact that questions about Joyce kept coming up was revealing in itself. He had an impressive CV, having reached the top 100 himself as a player and then spent seven years coaching Maria Sharapova.

But whispers from within the camp suggested that she did not always follow his advice and was particularly resistant to suggestions that she should play more aggressively. It was also telling that she did not call Joyce onto court for coaching in her two most recent tournaments in Wuhan and Beijing.

Konta is expected to play one final event in Moscow next week, as she looks to improve her season beyond a middling 23-22 win-loss record. She will probably find a new coach to trial in the early part of the off-season.

The input of her new management company StarWing Sports – who recently replaced Octagon – may also play a role. Konta’s fellow British No 1, Kyle Edmund, climbed the rankings this year after StarWing linked him with a new coaching duo: Fidde Rosengren and Mark Hilton.

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