Johanna Konta was never allowed to come close to lifting the French Open trophy, beaten yesterday in the semi-final by Marketa Vondrousova, but before she left town, she hoisted the feminist flag over Roland Garros and told the organisers exactly what she thought of them.
Konta’s match had been bumped from the Court Philippe Chatrier, the main show court, to the far smaller 5,000-seater Court Simonne Mathieu yesterday as the organisers tried to get the tournament back on track after Wednesday’s rain washout. The other women’s semi-final between Ash Barty and Amanda Anisimova was parked out on Court Suzanne Lenglen while both men’s semi-finals took centre stage on Chatrier.
Steve Simon, the chief executive of the Women’s Tennis Association, described the scheduling as “unfair and inappropriate” while Amelie Mauresmo, Andy Murray’s former coach, called the schedule “a disgrace”.
“What is tiring and what is really unfortunate in this more than anything is that women have to justify their scheduling or their involvement in an event or their salary or their opportunities,” Konta said. “And I think to give time to that is even more of a sad situation than what we found ourselves in today in terms of the scheduling.
“I don’t want to sit here and justify where I’m scheduled. That’s not my job. My job is to come here and entertain people, and I feel I did that. And I feel I gave people who paid [for] tickets every opportunity to enjoy their French Open experience.
“And if the organisers do not feel that that is something that can be promoted and celebrated, then I think it’s the organisers you need to have a conversation with, not me, because I did my job and I did my job well.”
This was supposed to be one of the showcase matches for women’s tennis – the penultimate round of a grand slam. This was supposed to be one of the highlights of Konta’s career – her third chance to reach a major final. But the tournament organisers had handcuffed themselves by splitting the two men’s semi-finals and selling separate tickets for each match. And having sold each ticket at €100 for a men’s match, they had to deliver a men’s match for those ticket holders. The men could not be moved from the centre court.
Alas for Konta and her big moment, her court was less than half full and in spitting rain, a gusting and wind and cold conditions, she was only a fraction of the player she had been in the previous five rounds. The clarity of thought and precision hitting that wiped Sloane Stephens and Donna Vekic off the court had become muddled and, where she had been able to take time and space away from her other opponents, she could not find a way to boss Vondrousova around. She had chances – she served for both sets – but she could not take them as Vondrousova won 7-5, 7-6.
It was a disappointing end to what has been a remarkable couple of months for Konta. Her ranking is up to No 18, she has re-established herself as a serious threat at the major events and when mind and body are in harmony, she has shown that she has the beating of anyone.
“I’m putting myself into positions to try to make that extra step and making into a [grand slam] final,” Konta said. “It’s either going to happen or it’s not. I still have a lot to be proud of. Even if I were to stop playing tomorrow, I have done a lot of great things in my career so far.
“But equally, I’m just as hungry and just as motivated to keep going forward and to one day be in a position to be winning a major. But I definitely believe in my ability to do that, and we’ll see if it happens or not.”
What is very likely not to happen is her participation in the Nature Valley Open which starts on Monday in Nottingham. Usually, Konta plays all three grass court weeks leading up to Wimbledon but, usually, she loses in the first round of the French Open and has two full weeks to get ready for the green stuff. That has all changed now.
“I am down for three [grass court tournaments], but obviously I need to make sure I give my body enough rest to prepare, for sure,” she said. “We will see how I manage it.”