<
>

Johanna Konta working hard, blooming late and winning titles

play
Konta: This was a long time coming (2:21)

Johanna Konta talks after defeating Caroline Wozniacki to win her first Miami Open title. (2:21)

MIAMI -- Johanna Konta lifted the lob high in the air on match point. Caroline Wozniacki, who was crouched at the net, whirled and dashed madly toward the baseline. As the ball landed -- with no out call -- Konta dropped her racket in disbelief that she'd won.

Wozniacki flung her free hand in the air to challenge the call, hoping to extend Saturday's Miami Open final.

Konta stood there, her heart thumping in time with the public address system's dramatic audio track as the replay appeared on the large screens.

The lob kissed the line. Konta, a 25-year-old from Great Britain, had just won her first big tournament 6-4, 6-3, clearing one of the taller hurdles on the WTA Tour.

"I couldn't believe it was really over," Konta said of that moment later. "I was convinced there were more points coming."

Not on this day.

"She played really aggressively," Wozniacki said of Konta afterward. "She takes the ball early and stresses her opponents."

It's a concise and deadly accurate summary of Konta's strengths.

In this final, Konta's superior serve enabled her to win 64 percent of her first-serve points and 40 percent of her second-serve points. The numbers are unremarkable, but they were 10 percentage points better than Wozniacki's numbers in the same categories.

Additionally, Konta blasted 33 winners to just eight by Wozniacki, while making just three more unforced errors (19-16). That's a blueprint for success for players who are willing to play first-strike, aggressive tennis.

Miami is a premier mandatory event. On Monday, Konta will rocket from No. 11 all the way up to No. 7, further solidifying her growing reputation as a new, powerful force in the women's game. Konta is a late bloomer who didn't even survive qualifying for this event as little as two years ago.

Konta's history is somewhat unusual, because she's clearly intelligent and aware. She said her "journey" was a little different from that of most players, largely due to her lengthy emotional development. "Mostly, I needed to go through some life experiences," she said. "Life and sports go hand in hand. I had to grow up in lots of different areas before it translated on the court."

It isn't that she was a bad tennis player before she began her dramatic ascent through the rankings in 2015. She reminded reporters that being ranked as high as No. 11 in the juniors, or having a ranking inside the top 200, is still an impressive accomplishment.

"I don't see me as being that much of an anomaly," Konta said. "I just kept doing what I love, and that's working hard."

Konta uses the word "work" frequently and seems to take a measure of joy out of doing it.

"I always had the belief that I want to be a Grand Slam champion," she said after having won a tournament that is one step below a Grand Slam. "That stays throughout your career. Then it's all about keeping things simple and working hard."

Now that Konta's newfound maturity, her workaholic tendencies and her intelligence are coming together, she appears to be in position to challenge for all the big titles. The current, unsettled state of the pecking order in the WTA also means that opportunity is abundant.

Konta may not be done blooming yet.