How High Can Konta Go?

By Louise Belcourt
Since the rise of Johanna Konta last year in her maiden run to the Australian Open semi final, I have been a fan of how she plays the game. Her serve, her nerve and attacking play are impressive. And now, after sitting in the Australian Open press room yesterday, I’m a fan of Johanna Konta off the court as well.
When most tennis players arrive in the press room you can tell they can’t wait to get the “heck” out of there. But no, not Johanna. She is like your long lost friend or relative, that has plenty of time to chat and banter the afternoon away. Smiling and saying hello to everyone as she enters, and surprise surprise apologizing for being 10 minutes late (as she had to help her sister change her daughter’s nappy). She answers the never ending trail of questions with no agitation at all.
Konta, 25, has started the year perfectly. Winning her second WTA title, in Sydney, beating world number 3 Agnieszka Radwanska in the final. She has continued that form into the Australian Open not losing a set on route to her second successive quarter final. In fact she has not lost a set all year!
When asked how she draws her confidence in the important moments she said “I think, yeah, just keeping things in good perspective and just having trust in myself that however the match will swing, I will always be there to give my best and to always try to, yeah, leave it all out on court and fight till the very end.”
Fight until the last ball drops is what she will have to do against her next opponent Serena Williams. She has never played the 22-time grand slam champion, and said “I’m really looking forward to the challenge, and I’m looking forward to being on court, out on court with her and competing against her.”
On how she can beat 35 year old Williams she said “I think it’s about playing, me going out there and doing what I want to do against her, and it will be about just staying focused on that. And if that brings me good things on that day, and if that puts me in a position to come through, then that’s great. But I’ve got to focus on the work and not think of whether I can or cannot beat her. “
Keeping a well-balanced life has been key to Konta’s rapid rise from a ranking of 47 at the start of last year to world number 9 today. She said “I think that’s where you have also got to have a good perspective on things, and you’ve got to keep, I guess, the simple things in mind of what’s important to you. Are you healthy? Is your family healthy? Do you have people around you that you love? Do you have people around you that love you?”
“Go back to things that have got substance, and then in the end just trust in the work that you do, if it’s in the cards for you that you will get another opportunity or you won’t, I think, really love the sport for what it is and be grateful for the opportunities that it brings you, not necessarily what you wish it would.”
So with all of her recent success and future potential, the local Australian tennis media (and the general public) have been trying to claim her as their own. She was born in Sydney Australia, and only moved to England when she was 14, but still played for Australia until 2012 when she was granted UK citizenship. But she is happy to play for Britain where she resides, and will be looking for glory in her birth country.
With a level head on the court and a well-balanced life off it, I am sure we will see more of the plucky Brit in the final stages of grand slams, and one day lifting a trophy or two herself.

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  • Scoop Malinowski · January 24, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    Very interesting unique player is Konta – I can easily see her beating Serena – she does not appear to be frightened about that challenge :)

  • Andrew Miller · January 24, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    No fan myself of Ms. K. Her fh gets me, and I’m amazed she plays ao far behind the service line, and the infamous bathroom breaks to slow players down.

  • Andrew Miller · January 24, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    Serena Williams KO’d Jo Konta. Serena is really flying high post matrimony. It’s hard to tell what’s better for a player – being happy or being hungry! Agassi’s relationship and Federer and Nadal too, they all appreciate something different about the sport as they go, and faced different things at times. Every major slam is different – last year it’s Kerber pulling out all the stops to stun Serena. This year to me it’s definitely the triumph of the old guard in the Williams sisters and Lucic versus the startling improvement and drive of Coco V.

  • catherine bell · January 25, 2017 at 3:06 am

    As I just posted further down – Konta never had a chance v serena.

    Agree with you Andrew – Konta’s ok but can’t see her as future No 1.

  • catherine bell · January 25, 2017 at 3:14 am

    BTW Scoop – Serena’s not married yet – unless you know something we don’t :)

  • catherine bell · January 25, 2017 at 5:30 am

    Sorry Scoop – I meant Andrew re Serena’s ‘matrimony’.

  • Andrew Miller · January 25, 2017 at 7:22 am

    Catherine my bad, I thought she had and I am mistaken! No offense to Konta, she strikes me as having a nice backhand. And she is the British number one. Travesty Australia couldn’t keep her! It’s like having Rusedski on your roster vs Canada’s. Raonic is kindof Canada’s thanks no thanks to Rusedaki.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 25, 2017 at 7:24 am

    If Raonic’s mom was born in London which country do you think Raonic would be playing for? I hesitate to guess :)

  • catherine bell · January 25, 2017 at 7:43 am

    Heh heh – Kerber could be playing for Poland :)

  • Hartt · January 25, 2017 at 8:28 am

    Canada was very lucky that Rusedski changed tennis allegiance!

  • Andrew Miller · January 25, 2017 at 9:04 am

    I think it’s a good question. Canada’s been more aggressive retaining players since Rusedaki and Mary Pierce decided not to play for the maple leaf. Pierce was even on team USA, then France despite being Canadian by birth. It may even be that Canada in response to Rusedski said never again. Then even convinced former Federer practice partner Jesse Levine to fly under the maple leaf again, much as Russia lured away Dimitri Tursunov, who probably has the cleanest game among us players!

  • Andrew Miller · January 25, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Speaking of Russia and former Sharapova coach Mike Joyce I hope everyone read the recent long form article on him, which is basically Mike Joyce on Mike Joyce in response to the decades old piece from David Foster Wallace. Arguably it is just as powerful anda tribute to Joyce.

  • Andrew Miller · January 25, 2017 at 9:10 am

    That Argentine player who usta picked the tab up for who then flew under the argentine flag again too. Interesting stuff, basically the parents play the associations off one another. I’m sure the Murray family did this too to some degree getting the LTA to foot the coaching bill for him for a period, not unlike USTA doing same for most of its players for periods.

  • catherine bell · January 25, 2017 at 9:30 am

    I’m not sure Murrays fit in here. The LTA did fund him for a while and then he went to Spain but he (and his brother) have only ever represented GB.

    Where was the Michael Joyce piece ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 25, 2017 at 9:32 am

    Hartt: Do I detect a subtle knock on Greg Rusedski??!

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 25, 2017 at 9:36 am

    The Rusedski – Pierce dynamic duo would have swept the Hopman Cup at least three years in a row!

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 25, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Andrew: You speak of Andrea Collarini who is still out there plugging away hoping to be the next Victor Estrella Burgos or mischa Zverev -

  • Hartt · January 25, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Andrew, the piece on Joyce, “Michael Joyce’s Second Act” is terrific! Given how he felt about the Wallace piece on him I am a bit surprised he agreed to this feature, but am very glad he did. I laughed out loud a couple times and also enjoyed learning more about Joyce; he is a very appealing guy. And I especially liked the story of how he beat Rusedski in the former Canadian’s first tourney back in Canada, with Joyce being king of Montreal for a week, with lots of free meals, etc. :)

    Andrew, keep those recommendations coming!

  • Hartt · January 25, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    In terms of playing for a different country, Canada is now a poacher, rather than a poachee (I know that is not a word but it should be!) American junior (16 years old), Carson Branstine, will be training at Tennis Canada’s training centre in Montreal and presumably will play for Canada (her mother is from Toronto). I suppose there is less competition among young female players in Canada for the top spots than there is in the US.

  • Andrew Miller · January 25, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Scoop that is right,Collarini! He and another Argentine played for the French junior title right? I’m sure one of them will find their inner Burgos. I wish Kosakowski would or Jarmere Jenkins. Tough sport.

  • Thomas Tung · January 25, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    Yeah, this sport’s brutal amongst the major ones in the pay dept. You can be #100 in golf and be a millionaire, easily, and will have a decent chance to be recognized by halfway knowledgeable golf fans. Tennis? #100 is practically an unknown to all but devotees like us (even if they were former Top 20/Top 50). And the pay? Almost enough to make you not want to play, which is why I can’t blame most top 100 players for taking on “side activity” like the tennis Bundeslinga in Germany and other club play in France.

    Good ‘ol JonnyBlazed, back when his blog was still up, posted frequently about how he had to work as a stringer, coach, and steam-cleaner (in addition to part-time landlord). He was saving every penny (via some ingenious methods), and it was still costing him a fortune. And this is a guy who never broke the top #1000 in singles.

    You have to really love this game (and be a bit crazy) to want to go pro.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 26, 2017 at 8:33 am

    T2: Johnny Blaze never got an ATP point despite all his struggle and dedication – I had the chance to chat with J Blaze and he was an interesting character – he said he played Kevin Anderson and lost like 6360 – I was told he was a very steady consistent grinder but had no weapon – Have not heard anything about J Blaze lately – actually trained in the weight room of our gym next to him because he was good friends with my ex neighbor Kevin Arias who moved away to Colorado last year – Johnny Blaze is in incredible shape – Oh I just remembered I first met him at Key Biscayne where he was a hitting partner for WTA players during the tourney and he said Kirilenko dismissed him because he hit with too much top spin and not flat enough :)

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 26, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Not sure if Collarini got to a junior FO final – if he did then it was 2010 when he lost to Velotti – Collarini is still grinding but stuck outside that top 300 range last I checked -



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