Australian Open 2018: Johanna Konta 'very close' to matching Maria Sharapova's will to win, says coach

By Russell FullerBBC tennis correspondent at Melbourne Park
Rusedski's predictions: Who will win the Australian Open?

British number one Johanna Konta's will to win is "very close" to matching Maria Sharapova's, says her new coach.

Michael Joyce, who was a major part of Sharapova's team for six years, started working with Konta in November.

The American, who reached the top 100 as a player before going into coaching, told BBC Sport there are many similarities between the two women.

"The biggest thing with Maria for me was her will to win - Johanna's very close to that", the 44-year-old said.

Ninth seed Konta begins her Australian Open campaign against American Madison Brengle in the first round in Melbourne.

"It was one of the things that I talked to my wife about - I said she actually has a lot of similarities to Maria," Joyce added.

"Girls like that want to win so bad. For a coach, it's one of the best things we can ask for. However sometimes if you want things too bad, it can almost backfire too at times.

"Maria was like that: because they want to win so bad they are willing to keep working and do just about anything, and you have to be able to balance that as well."

Sharapova rose to world number one, and won both the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008 with Joyce as part of the team.

"They are both very humble", he continued.

"They don't search the spotlight, and for me I'm kind of the same. I think both of them enjoy being out on the practice court and enjoy competing and I'm the same way.

"They're not that excited about all the lights and whistles and so forth, and so for me they are very similar in that way as well."

Konta reached the quarter-finals of the Brisbane International in the first week of the season, but was then beaten in the opening round in Sydney by Agnieszka Radwanska.

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The 26-year-old, who ended an otherwise impressive 2017 season with five straight defeats, has highlighted a need to "panic less" in matches that are not going her way.

"I think Jo's biggest issues a lot of the time don't even have to do with the match in hand," Joyce said.

"It might be expectations that she puts on herself, or it might be off court thinking about results, and I did that a lot myself.

"When you're an intelligent person, which she is, you actually know what is happening. Sometimes it hurts you because you start thinking about all the stuff except for winning the next point.

"That's a learned skill and I know Jo's improved that a lot the last few years, but there's always room for improvement."

Who is Michael Joyce?

  • Reached a high of 64th as a player after turning professional in 1991
  • American author David Foster Wallace wrote a 12,000-word essayexternal-link on Joyce and the "physics of tennis" when Joyce was a youth player
  • Coached Sharapova from 2004 to 2011, overseeing her rise to world number one
  • Worked with American Jessica Pegula, the daughter of the owners of NFL team Buffalo Bills. Pegula's father, Terrence, has a net worth of $4.3bn (£3.1bn) after making his money from fracking
  • Coached Victoria Azarenka for eight months in 2017 after her return from giving birth to her son, Leo


Former British number one Greg Rusedski, speaking to BBC Sport

If Jo is healthy, she has a real opportunity to possibly go all the way this year. If you look at her section in the draw, there's a wonderful opportunity.

I think mentally, she has got a lot stronger and tougher. You have to have that drive and willpower to be the best.

She is progressing nicely - now is the time to get over that hump and get into a Grand Slam final, and Michael is the right combination to help her get there.

Michael is a brilliant coach - he's a good guy and his success with Maria at Grand Slams is why Jo brought him onto her team.

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