She came, she saw, she Konta-ed. At Crandon Park on Saturday, Johanna Konta landed what surely counts as the biggest title by any British woman for 40 years, as she blitzed Caroline Wozniacki in the final of the Miami Open.
It was a stellar performance from Konta, who now rises to a career-best position of No 7 in the world. In a match where both women’s serves came under heavy attack, she broke Wozniacki to love in the opening game and maintained her superiority throughout the next 95 minutes.
British tennis has not been without its successes on the women’s tour since 1977, the year Virginia Wade won Wimbledon. Jo Durie claimed a title in Sydney, Sara Gomer in Aptos and Annabel Croft in San Diego. But with a prize fund of around £950,000 for the winner, the Miami Open is one of the richest and most prestigious events on the WTA calendar, while also enjoying a long and vivid history as the former Lipton Championships.
No British woman had even made the quarter-finals here until Konta did it last year, and now she has run off with the title. It is quite some feat, especially when you consider that she is only visiting Crandon Park for the second time, having spent most of her professional career ranked too low to make the qualifying tournament.
“Everybody’s journey is different,” said Konta, who is only 10 months younger than Wozniacki, in an on-court interview with commentator Brad Gilbert. “I needed a little bit more time and a few more experiences to accumulate the knowledge I have. Now I think I play smarter tennis and calmer tennis and that just took time. On paper it looks like a quick turnaround, but it’s definitely been a lot of years, a long time coming.”
Wozniacki was an ideal opponent to draw in the final, as their previous meeting in Australia in January had delivered a one-sided victory for Konta. Even more helpfully, the Dane was struggling with a foot injury that required treatment early in the second set. But really this was just a contrast of styles in which Konta had all the power and the initiative.
Wozniacki’s best hope was to filibuster her way through the rallies until she could draw an error. By the close of Konta’s 6-4, 6-3 victory, she had racked up 32 clean winners to her opponent’s meagre tally of eight.
A perfect sliced lob finished the contest and delivered the most significant prize of Konta’s career. Andy Murray is no longer the only British player to see Miami as a home from home.
Konta has now appeared in four WTA finals and won three of them, a decent conversion rate by anyone’s standards, and all the more remarkable given her tendency to freeze under pressure in the early part of her career.
On Saturday she maintained the pounding rhythm that she established against Venus Williams in her even more impressive semi-final win, strafing the court with her flat and speedy backhand while applying extra loop and top-spin on the forehand side.
The only hitches were the three breaks of serve she conceded. But she tightened up that area as the afternoon wore on, limiting Wozniacki to just a single break point in the second set.
The running tally of rankings points for 2017 now shows Konta as the world’s second-best player on form, behind Karolina Pliskova but ahead of Australian Open champion Serena Williams, who has not played since that tournament.
Over the coming weeks it will be fascinating to see how she deals with the transition from hard courts, which are clearly her best surface, onto clay. She has only collected two WTA main-draw wins on clay in her entire career, but that statistic is misleading because she has barely entered any tournaments.
“Where we go from here is to continue working hard,” Konta said. “That’s what I love most about this sport. I love trying to get better every day and having opportunities like these to get a pat on the back is very rewarding.
“The belief has been there since I was a little girl that I’d like to be the best player in the world. But there’s a lot of work to be done between now and then, and a lot of matches, a lot of points to be played. So as long as I keep myself in the working mindset, I give myself the best shot.”
Konta your champion
— WTA (@WTA) April 1, 2017
Wozniacki 4-6, 3-6 Konta - JO KONTA WINS THE MIAMI OPEN
Wozniacki and Konta exchange points at the start of this pivotal game. With the scores tied a 30-30, Konta picks up a Wonziacki back hand beautifully to claim a Championship point. Wozniacki's attempted lob is far too heavy and, despite the obligatory Hawkeye referral, that seals it for Konta. The first British women to win this event.
*Wozniacki 4-6, 3-5 Konta (*denotes next serve)
Every time Konta has looked set to hammer home an advantage she has tightened up, but she starts well in this game moving into a 30-0 lead. Classy from Wozniacki to reduce the deficit. Konta sweeps a backhand winner up the line, and then Wozniacki's return is too long. Konta one game away.
Wozniacki 4-6, 3-4 Konta* (*denotes next serve)
Konta wins another point off Wozniacki's second serve and the Dane's back is looking a little stiff. Konta moves into a 30-0 lead, this is now a glaring opportunity to break. Wozniacki flat footed once again, and Konta has three break points.
An attempted backhand misses by a mile, but still two points in hand. Wonderful forehand by Wozniacki however, so we're down to one break point. Net call just loops over and Wozniacki meekly clothed an attempted lob drop shot into the net. Two service games away from the title.
*Wozniacki 4-6, 3-3 Konta (*denotes next serve)
Konta wins the first point of the game off her second serve with a forehand winner and then fires her fourth ace of the match. Over-weighted forehand allows Wozniacki back into the game, and despite Konta moving two points clear a trademark backhand from the Dane reduces the arrears again.
Konta looking a little tense now and it is deuce. Smashes a wide serve however to claim advantage, and another strong serve is too much for Wozniacki. Those two shots were badly needed.
Caroline Wozniacki in action
Wozniacki 4-6, 3-2 Konta* (*denotes next serve)
Konta takes advantage of Wozniacki's under-par second serve to move 30-0 love up against serve. Wozniacki battles back to level but a superb backhand down the line gives Konta break point. The Brit stepped away from a volley - she really could have sealed the game had she been more decisive.
Wozniacki has advantage, and secures a crucial hold of serve after Konta nets a forehand return.
*Wozniacki 4-6, 2-2 Konta (*denotes next serve)
Wozniacki having some strapping applied to her right foot. After that stoppage we are ready to get going again. This is a crucial service game for Konta. Untimely double fault has the game at 15-15, but lands her first serve to win the next two points. Misses a simple forehand to let Wozniacki get within one point. However, Konta holds with a fine whipped backhand.
Wozniacki 4-6, 2-1 Konta* (*denotes next serve)
Wozniacki wraps up the game on serve to-love. That's the first game that has gone seamlessly with serve.
*Wozniacki 4-6, 1-1 Konta (*denotes next serve)
Another service game that is far from routine, and Konta fumbles a toss with the scores tied at 30-30. Wozniacki has a break point after another mis-judged return from Konta and wins the seventh break of the game off the Brit's second serve.
Wozniacki 4-6, 0-1 *Konta (*denotes next serve)
Wozniacki serving first once again. Fabulous cross-court backhand from Konta gives her the early advantage and she follows it up with a forehand winner.
Three break points now for Konta, but Wozniacki wins one of the best rallies of the match so far with an audacious lob. Wins the next point, and Konta cannot return a strong first serve so that's deuce.
Wozniacki struggling to find a length and Konta has break point but pops out of a forehand that loops well beyond the baseline. Konta targetting Wozniacki's forehand, and has another break point. The Dane is struggling with the rhythm of her serves, and Konta moves in to find the winner. Match on her racket now.
Wozniacki 4-6 Konta
Wozniacki picks off a poor volley from Konta, but the Brit responds with the third ace of the match.
Konta's return is too strong to give Wozniacki the advantage who then punished her on her second serve. Two break points for the Dane, but Konta lands a first serve to save one of them. Braver second serve this time from Konta and Wozniacki's forehand is too heavy - duece.
Powerful, wide serve from Konta is well executed and it sets up set point. It has been awfully nervy, but that's a big step towards the world's top 10 for Konta.
Wozniacki 4-5 Konta* (*denotes next server)
Konta players a fairly average drop shot but moves in to pick up the volley and draw first blood against serve.
Wozniacki then fires back-to-back double faults to give Konta a pair of break points. She takes it at the first time of asking, and she is now serving for the first set.
*Wozniacki 4-4 Konta (*denotes next server)
New balls in play. Wozniacki looks very focused after that umpire's call she was aggrieved with. Gets into a 30-0 lead against serve but then takes a wild swing in what looked a pre-meditated stroke.
Both players exchanging errors, and Wozniacki has a break point. Another mistake means its deuce however- both players look as if the weight of the occasion is hanging around their neck. Konta smashes a drive-volley to cancel out a Wozniacki advantage but another fine return has the Dane in the driver's seat.
Konta's back hand down the line is called out and Wozniacki has her fourth break point of this nervy game. She cries 'C'MON' as Konta's return is too heavy.
Wozniacki 3-4 Konta* (*denotes next server)
Strong service game from Wozniacki here means she does not have to call upon her weak second-serve. Races into a 40-0 lead, but Konta responds with a cleanly struck forehand to reduce the deficit.
Konta return is called out and she challenges. The Brit was right to do so, as Hawkeye shows it was in. Wozniacki has some words for the umpire, saying the cry of 'out' disturbed her return. Replays suggest it did not.
Wozniacki channels her anger into a big first-serve however to win the game.
*Wozniacki 2-4 Konta (*denotes next server)
Another missed backhand from Wozniacki which is uncharacteristic. Konta then steps in to volley her way into a 30-0 lead.
Wozniacki battles back however, following up a lob with a volley to restore parity in a game. 110mph serve from Konta gives her the game's second ace and game point, which she claims with the minimum of fuss after another big first serve.
Wozniacki 2-3 Konta* (*denotes next server)
Six winners so far from Konta to Wozniacki's one. The Dane is relying heavily on her first serve here, and at 30-30 faces another battle to hold.
Wozniacki misses a backhand and Konta has break point and a well-executed forehand is too hot for her opponent to handle.
*Wozniacki 2-2 Konta (*denotes next server)
Wozniacki challenges a Konta forehand return that was called good, and Hawkeye shows it was comfortably in.
After a talk with her father and coach in the break, Wozniacki seems to have settled down. Cross-court backhand working well and then a wild return from Konta gives Wozniacki a break point. Konta fails to save it after another backhand error.
Wozniacki 1-2 Konta* (*denotes next server)
Konta steps in to punish Wozniacki's second-serve. The Dane needs to find a way of gaining a foothold in this contest - she looks completely overpowered so far.
30-30, but a better first serve from Wozniacki gives her game point. Needed a second serve, but Konta's shank hands her the game.
*Wozniacki 0-2 Konta (*denotes next server)
This is a startlingly dominant start from Konta, who wins the first point of her first service game. Mis-cues a couple of slow, looping balls however to put Wozniacki in a 15-30 lead.
Recovers strongly however, and Konta looks to have so much time in comparison to her opponent. First ace of the match seals the game.
Wozniacki 0-1 Konta* (*denotes next server)
Konta wins the toss and opts to receive. Returns Wozniacki's first serve strongly and forces the Dane into an error to claim the first point of the match. The Brit is striking the ball nicely, and another big return puts her 0-30 up.
A pure backhand winner down the line gives Konta three break points, and she does not need to use them after another powerful return. What a fine start.
Here we go
Sparse crowds in Miami, and certainly the sponsors would not have chosen 10th seed against 12th in the final of this tournament given the chance. Players are going through their paces and we should be under way shortly.
Martina Navratilova says Wozniacki is playing the best tennis she has produced for three or four years. Claims a change of attitude and a 'nothing to lose approach' has turned things around for the Dane.
10 minutes or so until the start of play
Jo Konta has the chance to move into the top 10 of the world rankings if she beats Caroline Wozniacki this evening. Konta is here courtesy of a straight sets win over Venus Williams in the semi-final, and is also the first British women to reach the final in Miami.