No looking back for Johanna Konta as she ‘plays like a champion’

Johanna Konta returns on her way to a commanding victory over world No 38 Katerina Siniakova. Picture: PA.
Johanna Konta returns on her way to a commanding victory over world No 38 Katerina Siniakova. Picture: PA.
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It is hard not to get over-excited about Johanna Konta’s chances at Wimbledon this year.

She is not so much playing well as playing beautifully, and as she eyes a place in the second week of the tournament, she faces a woman she has walloped three times already this year.

Yesterday Konta, the world No 18, dominated Katerina Siniakova, the world No 38, for every one of the 71 minutes it took her to win 6-3, 6-4. She was serving almost flawlessly, she was controlling almost every rally and she was playing almost as well as she is able. This was a performance any champion would be proud of.

It put her into the third round where she will meet Sloane Stephens. Again. They have been following each other around the world this year, starting in Brisbane, continuing in Rome and most recently colliding in Paris at the French Open.

Every time, Konta has won, and so impressed was Chris Evert by that straight-sets victory in Paris that she thought it was one of the best clay-court matches she had ever seen. But now, though, they meet on the grass courts where Konta reached the semi-finals two years ago and where Stephens has only once reached a quarter-final – and that was back in 2013.

Stephens, the former US Open champion and Roland Garros finalist, is fast, she hits the ball hard and clean but she cannot work out how to beat Konta.

“It’s been a rough year with Jo Konta,” Stephens, pictured, said with a wry smile. “I’ve got to get her this time. But she’s a great player, so I’m just going to have to go out and try a new game plan, new style, try some different stuff and just compete.”

Trying new stuff against Konta in this sort of form is not going to be easy. There are some around the grounds of the All England Club who think that she is playing even better than she did two years ago when she reached that semi-final. Konta is not one of them. Part of her positive, upbeat approach to life and the challenges it poses, on and off a tennis court, is never to look back. Staying in the moment is the key to success.

“I don’t really compare myself to myself,” she said. “I think I’m in a good place right now. I think I’m playing good tennis. I’m definitely enjoying the tennis I’m playing. I feel like I’m asking my opponents a lot of questions. I feel like I’m answering quite a few as well, when they ask me questions out on court.

“I think I’ve been kind of building on my level each tournament, each match I’ve been playing as the season has been going. I’m pleased with that. We know it’s never just an upward trajectory. Just overall really glad that I came through a tough match today. Just looking forward to being in the third round.”

This relentless positivity of Konta may sound a little contrived but it is paying dividends on court. When she is in this frame of mind, nothing can faze her. Her opponents find her serve and her power tough enough to deal with, but it is her ability to accept any error and immediately hit the reset button and move on that wears them down.

Unsurprisingly, then, she thinks nothing of her 3-0 lead over Stephens. That is all in the past. Tomorrow will be another day.

“I think records don’t necessarily mean a lot when you step out on to the court at the beginning of the match,” Konta said. “I think Sloane is one of the best players in the world. She’s a grand-slam champion, another grand-slam finalist. I think for me to have won our three encounters so far, there’s very little in that.

“I think more than anything, I’m looking forward to playing her again. I like playing really great players. I like playing, yeah, just big matches like that.”

At Wimbledon, she is quite good at winning them, too.