Johanna Konta’s next opponent Viktoria Kuzmova is huge Shakespeare fan

Slovakia's Viktoria Kuzmova will face Johanna Konta in the third round in Paris. Picture: Michel Euler/APSlovakia's Viktoria Kuzmova will face Johanna Konta in the third round in Paris. Picture: Michel Euler/AP
Slovakia's Viktoria Kuzmova will face Johanna Konta in the third round in Paris. Picture: Michel Euler/AP
To drop shot or not to drop shot, that is the question. And it is one that Viktoria Kuzmova must answer before she takes on Johanna Konta today in the third round at Roland Garros.

The answer is likely to be “not” as the 21-year-old Slovak does not really play that way but if she is looking for inspiration, she can always turn to the Bard. Kuzmova is never without a book and her writer of choice is Shakespeare. She is currently rereading Hamlet (for the fifth time) and for all that she earns her living as a professional athlete, she is something of an academic at heart.

“I always have a book in my bag,” she said. “Shakespeare is my favourite but I also love some not so famous authors. For example I love Rupi Kaur, who wrote Sun and Flowers and Milk and Honey. These are in English. They are also translated into Slovakian but I prefer them in English. It’s fairly ‘easy’ poetry so I can understand it in English. But I would never understand Shakespeare in English. I read Shakespeare in Slovakian.”

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As yet, Kuzmova has never made it to Stratford Upon Avon but is on her to do list during one of her next visits to England. In fact, she is not having much luck in pursuing her passion for Shakespeare.

“We actually have a Shakespeare ‘space’ back in Bratislava,” she said, “but I’m never home when it’s actually happening. Hopefully maybe this year.”

Ah, so when is it this year? “I think it’s actually during Wimbledon.” Clearly, her tennis is getting in the way of her literary studies but that is only the half of it. She is also enrolled in university in Bratislava to study International Relations and Diplomacy.

“I always loved school,” she said. “I’ve always loved law and philosophy as well. That’s why I chose this subject.”

The leap from the tennis tour to the world of international diplomacy seems a little far but Kuzmova does not like to limit her horizons. Once her playing days are over, she might just try to become a diplomat. It is a little early to say yet – she is only in the second term of her degree course.

“It’s one more option for me,” she said. “It’s always good to have options. I would love to do that but I would also like to teach little kids to play tennis.”

That, though, is all for the future; today she must concentrate on Konta, pictured, and plotting a path around the world No 26 and on to the fourth round. Kuzmova said: “I’ve seen her play a couple of matches so I know how she plays.

“I know it will be a really tough match. I’ll talk with my coach about it. I know she runs really well and tries to play aggressive so I think it’s going to be a good match.”

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Konta is still trying to shake off a virus – she had almost lost her voice as she was beating Lauren Davis on Wednesday – which is not the best way to take on a young, ambitious hopeful. A year ago, Kuzmova’s goal was to break into the world’s top 100. Today, she is ranked No 46 and, while she has a game designed for a hard court, she grew up playing on clay so the red dust of Roland Garros holds no fear for her.

“It’s great for me to be in the third round of a grand slam for the first time,” she said. “It’s a great feeling and I hope it gives me even more motivation for this tournament and also for the next ones.”

Naomi Osaka did not need any motivation to dig out her A-game against Victoria Azarenka yesterday. Knowing full well that she was playing a former world No 1, a double Australian Open champion and a double US Open finalist, the current world No.1 had to fight for all she was worth to reach the third round.

In a matter of minutes, she was 4-0 down in the first set, she was a break down in the second set and even when she served for the match at 5-1, Azarenka still would not go away. But finally, after two hours and 50 minutes, Osaka ended it 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.

“I think for me I feel like I didn’t dip at all during this match, and she was just playing so well,” Osaka said. “I was just waiting for her to get a little bit tired. So that’s when I just tried to really accelerate on how fast I was sort of winning the points.”

Serena Williams wasted precious little time in disposing of Kurumi Nara, the world 
No 238 from Japan. It only took 67 minutes for the former champion to win 6-3, 6-2 and after her nervy opening round on Tuesday, her relief was obvious.

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