After a weekend of record-breaking triumphs in cricket and rugby, what price our tennis players delivering another upbeat story in the cauldron of Arthur Ashe Stadium?
Johanna Konta is surely the best bet. She comes in with 10 slam victories to her name already in 2019: the highest tally she has ever brought into the year’s final major. And as she revealed this weekend, she is reaping the benefits – in terms of public approval, anyway – of her memorable spat with a reporter after her quarter-final loss at Wimbledon.
“Straight after that I went on holiday,” said Konta. “So to a certain extent I tried to remove myself as much as possible. But it’s hard to not notice the traction it got when I walked down the street and one woman was shouting down from the balcony, ‘Good on you!’ ”
The incident began with a searching question from Daily Express reporter Matt Dunn, who highlighted Konta’s 33 unforced errors, and continued with her complaint that she was being patronised and “picked on”.
The next day, Dunn told the BBC that “her answer was great, it showed some feistiness”. Their exchange certainly received blanket coverage, while also demonstrating how much benefit athletes can gain from showing their real emotions rather than sticking to the usual platitudes.
Asked on Saturday whether most of the public reaction had been positive, Konta replied: “I can only speak of the people who stopped me really. I got more recognition after this Wimbledon than 2017, when I had a massive viewership for my quarter-final.
“I have no idea how she [the woman on the balcony] recognised me from the top of my head! That was a new experience. But it was a while ago now and I think everyone has kind of moved on.”
Having played only two tournaments since Wimbledon, Konta came away with nothing to show for either of them. A pair of first-round defeats suggested a possible emotional hangover from that Wimbledon exit at the hands of 33-year-old Czech Barbora Strycova. But Konta, the world No 16, denies feeling any sense of anxiety over her recent form, pointing out that she has already played almost 50 times this season, so cannot be said to lack matches.
A greater concern might be her first-round draw against Russia’s Daria Kasatkina – one of those awkward touch players who loves to break up her mechanical rhythm with a wide selection of paces and spins. Their match has been scheduled first on Court 17 on Monday, starting just after 4pm BST.
On the men’s side, the most likely British flag-bearers are Kyle Edmund – who says that his knee is now feeling “fabulous” after many months of chronic pain – and the mercurial Dan Evans. In the interview room on Sunday, Evans explained the thinking behind his surprise axing of coach David Felgate at the end of last month.
“I just felt differently when we started back after Wimbledon,” said Evans, who will face world No 57 Adrian Mannarino on Court 10 at around 5.30pm BST. “I looked at it all and I didn’t think it was working. I haven’t got time on my side to be p------ around paying someone for nothing.”
Evans also suggested that he would be better off with a younger coach, who can double up as a hitting partner, rather than a man in his mid-fifties like Felgate. He has not found a replacement yet, and will be working with Britain’s Davis Cup captain, Leon Smith, as a locum during this event. In the longer term, he would prefer to hire someone British, for logistical reasons, but admitted that the list of potential candidates was not a long one.
“There’s plenty of people with coaching qualifications,” said Evans, who has little respect for such certificates. “But not many who have actually coached on the tour.”
While Edmund is not due to play until Tuesday, British No 2 Cameron Norrie is scheduled immediately after Evans against French qualifier Gregoire Barrere.
Harriet Dart came through qualifying on Friday and will play another qualifier, Romania’s Anna Bogdan, in the first match on Court 14.