Johanna Konta: Laying the seeds for the future
Johanna Konta became the first British woman in 33 years to reach the last four of a Grand Slam in the 2016 Australian Open. A fantastic achievement for someone who was unseeded ahead of the tournament.
Born in Australia to Hungarian immigrants, Konta’s parents moved to the UK and took up British citizenship in 2005 just to make it better for her to play the game. She has no qualms about doing so and even jokes about it by saying "Actually I am a tri-citizen! I’ve got a Hungarian passport as well. Just add that into the mix - I’m pretty much the female version of Jason Bourne."
Fastest rising player of 2015
Konta began 2015 ranked a lowly 147 in the world, taking part in lower level tournaments and entering the main draw of Grand Slams going through the qualifying rounds. Her talent came to the fore in the final Slam of the year at the US Open where she reached the fourth round beating Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza and Andrea Petkovic. Konta also beat number two-ranked Simona Halep in a tournament in China later that year. She came into 2016 ranked 47 and was WTA’s fastest rising player of 2015.
‘It’s not a click. It’s a process’
On being asked whether her wins at Flushing Meadows came as a result of everything falling into place, Konta replied “It’s not a click. It’s a process.” She credits it to hard work gone into training and the effort that has to reach where she has. She is effusive in her parents’ praise and also credits her boyfriend and yes, a profound love of ice-cream for her rise! A vast improvement in her game has been due to the influence of Spanish coaches Esteban Carel and Jose-Manuel Garcia. She worked on the mental aspect too, working with Juan Cotto who is known to help athletes improve psychologically.
The media-shy Cotto had this to say when probed further: “The philosophy is to focus only on things you can control. Not winning or losing or your ranking, but your effort, your attitude. You release the pressure of what you can’t control. It’s easier said than done. There is a lot riding on it. You need to really believe.”
Australian Open breakthrough
Johanna had a tough first round encounter with Venus Williams, someone whom she admired a lot growing up. She crushed Williams in straight sets and breezed through the next couple of rounds. Konta ran into 21st seed Ekaterina Makarova in the fourth round and battled past her in a three-set cliffhanger. It was notable for the fact that she had to remain strong mentally, something which had eluded her in the past and for which she had teamed up with Cotto. In the quarters, Konta blitzed past Zhang Shuai, ending the challenge of another player who had a dream run in the championships. Konta met her match in the seventh seeded Angelique Kerber in the semis, but the 24 year-old showed that she could hold her own among the big guns.
The way ahead
Her strong showing at Melbourne will make sure she breaks into the top 30 for the first time in her career and will be seeded for the French Open. Konta has also seen a cut in funding from British tennis and admits that it has made life difficult for her. But, she is determined to go ahead full steam focusing mainly getting better.
“The way I am on court is not the way I was born. I was different as a junior,” she was quoted saying by The Guardian. “But I’ve grown up and a lot of hard work has been put in to get me to the point where I am now. Difficulties come your way at every turn so it’s constantly about reinforcing everything. And I know the work is far from over. I’ll work harder and I’ll get better. It’s pretty simple in the end.”