Wimbledon 2017: Johanna Konta's recipe for success
The world No 7 battled her way past Donna Vekic and into the third round on Wednesday, taking more than three hours of sweat, graft and tears (Vekic’s, not Konta’s) to get there. It was a performance that impressed Andy Murray and, he thinks, could provide invaluable experience if Konta moves towards the sharp end of the tournament.
“She stayed very calm,” Murray said approvingly. “You could say that’s just her, but at the end of the match you could see the emotion that came out, so that was obviously in there, that she was feeling the nerves and the stress and the pressure. But she did well. I think that will be a big match for her.
“Sometimes when you get through matches like that at a slam it can give you a big boost. She’s probably not played loads on Centre Court, so to get through a match like that on there, if she wants to do well, she’s going to have to play a lot more out there, so it will be really good for her.”
Next in line for Konta is the unheralded Maria Sakkari, the world No 101 from Greece. She has been coached by Mark Petchey since the French Open (it is a temporary arrangement) and as he has got to know his new charge, he has been hugely impressed with her total commitment to the cause. Her best shot? “In her head,” Petchey said.
“She’s an incredibly hard worker,” he continued. “I feel like she is just starting her career now at 21 and I feel like there is a lot of ceiling room for her tennis. She moves great; since we have been working she has won three matches from match point down so that tells you a bit about her competitive fire. Whatever Maria’s best is will be put on the court tomorrow, wherever it is played. That’s all I can tell you.”
But while the crowd gets overexcited and the coaches pore over the tactics, Konta is trying to avoid the pressure and the expectation. She recently bought herself a home in Putney, just up the road from Wimbledon, and is enjoying the new home comforts. To take her mind off the day job, she has tried her hand at baking, using her team as guinea pigs. So far, they’ve all survived, too. “I think there’s definitely more awareness to us in this fortnight,” she said. “I try to not go out too much. I am enjoying just staying at home, chilling out and making muffins.”
As for her interest in Poldark – she watches it purely for the plot lines, obviously.
“I am a fan of actually just the show itself,” she said. “I think it’s a good show and it’s light and something that’s easy to watch, but, yeah, Aidan Turner is easy on the eyes.”
Heather Watson, too, is trying to keep it light as she attempts to beat Victoria Azarenka today. The former world No 1 from Belarus may be in the very early stages of her comeback from maternity leave (she has played only four matches so far – and won three of them) but she is a ferocious competitor on a par with her friend Serena Williams. Although two years ago, Watson almost beat Williams on Centre Court so Azarenka knows to be on her toes from the start.
“I don’t think Heather is defined only by that one match,” Azarenka said. “I think she’s a great player. I think she played really well last week in Eastbourne. It looks like she feels really comfortable coming into this match.”
Watson has a little extra incentive for today’s match. If she wins, Morgan Phillips, one of her coaching team, has promised to shave his legs. So, if hard work and dedication does not win you a grand slam title, maybe Poldark, muffins and a little light practice court wagering will.