Johanna Konta became the first British woman to qualify for the Wimbledon semi-final since 1978 on Tuesday and can go a step further today when she takes on Venus Williams whose chance of an eighth grand slam victory has been boosted by the absence of her sister Serena.
This is a big deal. And not just for the Brits, who haven’t seen one of their own go this far in the women’s game since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon a depressing 39 years ago.
Before her triumph against Simona Halep, nobody knew that much about Konta – well, at least not your average strawberry-and-cream-eating once-a-year-watching Wimbledon fan.
Now she’s in the running to make Wimbledon history.
With heavyweights Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova absent, this is undoubtedly one of the most unpredictable Women’s Wimbledon tournaments for some time, with Konta as well placed to triumph as any of the remaining survivors.
Here are four facts you need to know about the player flying the flag for Britain following Andy Murray’s defeat yesterday.
Home Girl at Heart
Konta was born in Sydney to Hungarian parents. She spent the best part of her childhood there and started playing tennis at the tender age of 8. Her family moved to Eastbourne in 2005 when she was 15 where they settled. Konta became a British citizen in May 2012. Despite her international background, Jo is proud to be a Brit – and is not afraid to shout about it, telling journalists at the Australian Open last year who tried to claim she was Aussie that “my home is Great Britain … that’s where my heart is.”
From wildcard to Wimbledon champion hopeful, Konta has soared up the rankings. She first appeared at the All England Club five years ago ranked number 212. By the end of last year she had reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open and the fourth round of the US Open. She’s now ranked seventh in the world and is on the verge of winning her first Grand Slam.
Johanna was just 8 years old when she started practising her backhand in after-school training on the vast expanses of Australia’s Northern Beaches before moving on to the Sánchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona when she was fourteen.
A Will of Iron
Despite her modesty – she “doesn’t underestimate any opponents” and is “fully aware of the challenges that they will bring my way” – Konta is one tough cookie and has bags of self-confidence to see her through matches. “I’ve always believed in my own ability and I’ve always dreamed big,” she said after her victory against Halep.
Although she may have fallen prey to a few anxiety-induced match meltdowns in the past, she puts her remarkable poise and focus down to her training with Spanish mental coach Juan Coto in 2014, who, she says, had a “remarkable influence” and helped her “beyond tennis”.
Konta is so strong that she can “wear an opponent down mentally,” says four-time Grand Slam winner Kim Clijsters.
This year it’s anyone’s game in the race for the Wimbledon crown, but with a strong will, an even stronger forehand and a fanatic home crowd behind her, we think the gal could come good.
If you agree, head over to NetBet. At 10/13, Konta is definitely worth a punt.