Wimbledon 2016 kicks off this week and the UK’s best hope at triumph lies with Johanna Konta, our nation’s number one female tennis player and this year’s GLAMOUR Sportswoman of the Year. Ella Alexander meets an anthlete with ambition by the bucket load.
Johanna Konta was nine years old when she decided she wanted to be the number-one tennis player in the world. “I remember my dad saying, ‘Well, if that’s the case, you’ve got to work really hard.'”
Judging by her rocketing success, her childhood ambition looks set to come true. In the past 12 months, Johanna has become the British women’s number one and climbed to number 21 in the World Tennis Association rankings (compared to number 151 last year).
At the Australian Open in January she defeated Serena Williams and became the first British woman since 1983 to reach a Grand Slam singles semi-final. “I was quite proud of myself for that,” she says. “I’ve had some pretty incredible experiences.”
At her busiest, Johanna plays for four hours a day, plus two hours’ training in the gym but the adrenaline of a match day is what she lives for: “I love competing in front of a crowd. I enjoy the performance.”
She admits she’s not a natural loser (she’s banned from playing Monopoly with her family): “I get quite stroppy if I lose but I’ve developed skills with a mind coach to help deal with the highs and lows of tennis at this level.”
How did she feel when Novak Djokovic the world’s number one male tennis player said that female players should be awarded less prize money than their male counterparts? “It will be interesting if Djokovic is ever lucky enough to have a daughter and how he would explain to her that she should earn less than a man,” she says diplomatically.
Steffi Graf winner of 22 Grand Slam singles titles is Johanna’s idol. “The way she carried herself on court, the manner in which she competed she’s an incredible player, I can only aspire to be like her.” Self-possessed and insanely talented not to mention the 11 singles titles from the International Tennis Federation world tour to her name Konta is more like her hero than she realizes.