In Britain, tennis revolves around Wimbledon and at Wimbledon the world revolves around Andy Murray. But in her own quietly confident, athletically aggressive way, Johanna Konta is beginning to change all of that.
She is through to the second week in SW19 for the first time in her life and with the weekend off to prepare for her fourth round match with Caroline Garcia tomorrow, she was trying to escape from the hype.
The middle Saturday of the tournament is a huge turning point for everyone left in the draw: the first week is over, the wheat has been sorted from the chaff and now is the time that the contenders make their way to the fore. But, as is her way, Konta tries not to think about that.
“Billie Jean King has always said pressure is a privilege,” she said, “so I am definitely looking at it in that sense but like you all know, I am disassociating myself from the hype as much as I can.
“Every match I have played here and am going to play has been challenging and is going to be difficult. Everyone can play well; there’s very few margins that set us aside and so many factors can become involved so I just try to make sure on the day I am applying myself the best I can and dealing with the challenges – which always come – the best I can.”
The way that Murray struggled through his match with Fabio Fognini on Friday, overcoming his own moderate form, his sore hip and an opponent who blew hot and cold – sometimes in the course of one rally – is what sets him apart as a champion and as a warrior. And it is something that Konta admires and would love to emulate.
“It’s definitely something I’m trying to do,” she said. “With the way the game is developing there are very few things now that set players apart so you really do try to maximise every single part of you and competitiveness is part of that.”
So far, so normal for Konta. In the midst of the Wimbledon media storm, she manages to remain detached, calm and controlled by following the techniques taught to her by her psychologist, the late Juan Coto. It is all part of the “process” (her buzz word) that keeps her mind clear and allows her tennis to flourish. But she is still human and still has hopes and dreams.
“Don’t get me wrong, we all dream,” Konta said, “and why I play tennis is because of my dream – my dream is to become the best player in the world. That is my dream and forever will be my dream as long as I play – but also I keep in mind the fact that it’s everyone else’s dream as well. They are looking to be the best that they can be and for me it’s most important to stay grounded and stay true to the good things that I bring to my game and to really enjoy competing and trying to be best I can be.”
But to achieve the dream means blotting it out, or at least blotting it out for the few hours before and during a match. Now that her stock is rising with the British tennis watching public, it seems unlikely that she will be consigned to an outside court again. Strangely, for a woman who seems so self-contained, she does love the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd – she just won’t let that love distract her from the job in hand.
“I do love playing on the big stages but I don’t get discouraged if I’m not scheduled to be on Centre or Court One,” she said. “The courts are the same size, the net is the same height and it’s most important to keep in mind the sport is still the same.”
That may sound desperately dull but it is part of Konta’s “process”. She has been saying all week that everyone in the draw is a champion in waiting, everyone is dangerous.
“Everybody, I look at everyone in that way,” she said. “Everybody knows how to play, compete and maximise their abilities and everyone is out there to beat me so I go up against every single player to have a battle.”
But it is a very clever “process”. As she steadies herself for tomorrow’s match and beyond, she will view a Venus Williams or a Victoria Azarenka in the same way she would a Petra Martic: they are all there to be beaten. And if she does beat them all and lift the trophy, the world’s axis will have shifted forever.