Johanna Konta staying cool for Wimbledon
While the whole of British tennis was captivated by Konta’s stunning run to the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January, the woman herself insisted she felt no different than the previous year, when she was ranked 144th and lost in the first round of qualifying.
“Both times I was looking forward to going home to see my family,’’ she said. “That remains the same. I go home to see my parents, spend some time in my own bed.’’
Konta’s remarkable rise has lifted her 129 places in the rankings in a year.
Last year she needed a wild card to get into Wimbledon and suffered her fourth first-round defeat.
This year, she will be seeded 16th having last week become the first British woman since Jo Durie in 1983 to reach the world’s top 20.
Konta, born in Australia to Hungarian parents and resident in Eastbourne since the age of 14, has all the attributes of a top tennis player.
Tall and athletic with good movement, a strong serve and excellent ball striking, there was no doubt she had been under-achieving.
The key was the mental side of the game. Konta had struggled to perform her best at the high-pressure moments but, with the help of psychologist Juan Coto – a Spaniard like her coach Esteban Carril – the 25-year-old found her inner calm.
Konta realised her happiness could not depend on whether or not she won tennis matches. She talks of an epiphany moment playing at a low-key tournament in the USA last year when she was ranked closer to 200 than 100.
“I thought, you know what, if I stay here for the rest of the year, I’ll still be really happy,’’ the ice cream-loving Brit said. “I come out here and there’s blue skies, wonderful weather and great food.’’
Her rise began in June last year when she reached the quarter-finals at Eastbourne then, after losing to Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon, she won 16 straight matches culminating in a fourth-round appearance at the US Open.
Her scalps included Garbine Muguruza, who had reached the Wimbledon final, before Petra Kvitova finally ended her run.
All of which means the British public will view Konta very differently than the last time she rocked up at the All England Club as just another home hopeful.
The woman herself, of course, sees it just the same.
“Pressure is very much an external thing,’’ she said. “I just enjoy what I do. I am not going to win every single tennis match that I play but, as long as I keep myself healthy and keep my levels of enjoyment where I want them to be, then I give myself the best chance of competing the way I want to.
“It’s in my own interest to take what I want from the match. It’s not in my best interests to be down on myself and pity myself when I lose.
“Tennis is an interesting one. You are going to lose every single week you play unless you win the event, so you might as well get used to bouncing back from that and staying as level as possible whether you are winning or not.”