How tweets from U2 and baking muffins spur on Johanna Konta

Johanna Konta will meet Venus Williams in the semi-finals. Picture: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images
Johanna Konta will meet Venus Williams in the semi-finals. Picture: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images
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For Britain’s new tennis heroine Johanna Konta it sounded like a toss-up for which was the more thrilling moment – her opponent’s shot hitting the net to send her into today’s semi-final or the ping on her phone signifying a tweet from her favourite rock band had just landed.

“We’d love to see you at Twickenham on Middle Sunday but heard you’re busy,” went the message from U2. “Congratulations and good luck!”

“That was a fan-girly moment,” Konta admitted. “It was pretty intense at home. I may have shrieked and giggled and ran round in circles for a couple of minutes but I tried to play it pretty cool afterwards.”

Konta replied to Bono, The Edge & Co: “That’s okay, I’ll be seeing you guys a couple weeks later!!!” Struggling to make sense of the thrills of the last few days, the player added: “I think when U2 tweet you, that’s your life pretty much made.”

But it could get better for her – much better. By the time she catches up with her favourites at a mega-gig in Dublin, she could be Wimbledon 
champion.

Konta’s most-played track by U2 is Where the Streets Have No Name. “It’s an emotionally epic song,” she said. Now, Konta lives in Putney, having recently taken ownership of a flat in this corner of south-west London – presumably everyone knows her name on these streets? “I don’t know,” she said, “I haven’t had a chance to get out and about.”

Her feet haven’t touched the ground – of Putney or anywhere else – since her Wimbledon charge began, and quickly gained momentum, with each victory being more wildly cheered than the last. She has barely had a moment to catch up with her nearest and dearest.

“I actually haven’t seen my parents yet,” she said, “so I’m really looking forward to being able to do that. My mum doesn’t really watch, she watches from away. She gets very nervous so she’s never in the stadium. She prefers the TV or a screen somewhere.

“My dad is actually quite… I don’t know, maybe ask the people he’s sat alongside. I reckon he’ll always be trying to crack jokes. He’s a champ. My sister is at home right now with the little one.”

Konta’s victory over Simona Halep, which propelled her into the last four, where she goes up against Venus Williams, is the choice of many as the finest match of this year’s tournament.

Rafa Nadal v Gilles Muller has its supporters and was undoubtedly an epic, but in terms of how much effort and skill had to be put into winning even just a solitary point, Konta’s contest probably edges it.

She wouldn’t promote it as such, being too modest, but Konta agreed: “It was such a great battle, and such a great match for the latter stages of a tournament. And coming at Wimbledon on Centre Court made it a very sweet 
experience.”

When tournaments get to the business end, and with all the hullabaloo of being Britain’s great hope in whites, it’s little wonder that Konta hasn’t had time for normal family-oriented stuff. Although she did manage to bake some muffins, a revelation which predictably was cooked up into front-page news.

Human interaction has been confined to her “team”, including new mind coach Elena Sosa. “What’s been very beneficial is that she’s aware of the work that went on previously,” Konta said.

“She’s been able to continue that but also add new things. Challenges continue to change so I need to keep evolving to adapt.”

With this new age approach Konta must confront an age-old dilemma in women’s tennis – how to overcome Williams. She has huge respect for the five-times Wimbledon winner, saying: “I feel very excited and humbled to be sharing a court with her again.”

This will be Konta’s second Slam semi, the previous one resulting in defeat by Angelique Kerber in last year’s Australian Open. How has she improved since then? “I don’t think I can quantify but I’d like to think I have. I’d like to think I’ve become more experienced and resilient between then and now. I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve got to play on every single massive stage there is in our sport. I feel very excited by that and I’m hoping to use what I’ve learned in this semi-final.”

Her record against top-ten players is good. “I don’t know why that is, I just try and prepare the best I can. There’s no magic potion.” Obsessed with baking, Britain likes that Johanna Konta is a dab hand at muffin-making. Obsessed with being able to acclaim a new women’s champion, the country, in the words of U2, still hasn’t found what it’s looking for. But maybe this time …