Men have won each of the last 10 editions of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award so it is about time that a woman received one of the top honours in British sport.
If you fancy a female BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award candidate then you can source huge odds and, with the ceremony 11 and a half months away, one is willing to have a speculative punt on one such lady.
That lady is Johanna Konta, who could become the first female BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award winner since Queen Elizabeth II’s granddaughter, Zara Tindall – then known as Zara Phillips – topped the public vote in 2006.
Konta is the United Kingdom’s highest ranked female tennis player and she will begin the 2017 season at 10th on the computer following another significant climb in 2016. Konta was ranked 150th at the beginning of the 2015 schedule but, after reaching the fourth round of the US Open and doing well elsewhere on the circuit, she ended that year in 47th position. In 2016, Konta won her first WTA Tour title and she performed excellently in two Grand Slam tournaments, reaching the Australian Open semi-finals and the US Open fourth round. Konta collected the WTA Most Improved Player on Tour Award, polling more than 80 per cent of the vote.
Esteban Carril and Jose-Manuel Garcia were the coaches who oversaw Konta’s steady rise up the WTA Tour rankings. Konta elected to part company with the Spanish duo a few weeks ago and, in all honesty, her decision will either be a stroke of genius or a total disaster. The odds favour it being the former, though, because Konta has hired Wim Fissette, a Belgian coach whose previous clients include Kim Clijsters, Sabine Lisicki and Simona Halep. Clijsters, Lisicki and Halep enjoyed relative success under Fissette’s care.
There will be a changing of the guard in women’s tennis in the near future because Serena Williams is 35 years old and she cannot go on forever. Williams has won just one of the last five Grand Slam championships so it is clear that her influence is on the wane and, if Fissette can add an extra 10 per cent to Konta’s game, she will have a genuine shot at becoming the first British woman to win a major title since Virginia Wade took out the Wimbledon competition in 1977.
Wade picked up the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award in 1977, pipping cricket star Geoffrey Boycott and motor cycling champion Barry Sheene to the honour. British sports fans have taken Andy Murray to their hearts following his Davis Cup, Grand Slam and Olympic Games victories. Konta was born in Australia but one has no doubt that she will become a firm favourite of BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award voters if she wins a Grand Slam tournament for her adopted country, particularly if she prevails on Wimbledon’s grass.
Konta is trading at odds of +1000 to win any of the four Grand Slam events in 2017 but one is more attracted to the odds of +5000 available about her receiving the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award. Put it this way: Konta would be shorter odds than +400 to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award if she triumphed on the biggest stage.
One is expecting Konta to perform well in the Australian Open that will get under way in Melbourne next month – she made last year’s final four in the country of her birth and her most impressive results have been on hard courts. The Australian Open represents a real opportunity for Konta to break through because several big names will be missing.
Johanna Konta to Win
BBC Sports Personality of the Year