The last time United Kingdom had a representative in the last four of the women’s singles at Wimbledon was in 1978, when tennis player Virginia Wade lost in the semi-finals. The drought lasted for nearly four decades, but then a rising star by the name of Johanna Konta entered the picture and rewrote history by making headway to somewhere no Briton had ever ventured in nearly 40 years.
The 26-year-old tennis player, who is now the world number seven, defeated world No. 2 Simona Halep on the Centre Court during the quarterfinals. She will now face off against the United State’s Venus Williams.
Most have described Konta as headstrong with remarkable work ethic and fine attention to details. Her former coach said the player always stood out among her peers. She is famous for baking muffins for her fellow players, however her guarded personality and cool demure has earned her the title of “rude” – because, obviously, women who are calm and composed and do not wear their emotions on their sleeves are actually just impolite.
Here are some things you need to know about the Australian-born British athlete:
Konta was born in Sydney, Australia, to Hungarian parents. Her parents later decided to settle in the U.K. and moved to a town name Eastbourne in 2005.
In an interview with BBC, Konta said she was introduced to tennis when she was eight and used to drag her father out of bed at five in the morning to go for a run. Although she loved school, home schooling became her only option as she strived to make it to the professional ranks.
“I remember that I was very dedicated to working hard. I would do anything I could or needed to do to be better, to be fitter, to be stronger,” Konta recalled. “I didn't have very many friends when I was younger. I think because I was competitive and really committed to doing the work. I think that sometimes sets you aside from the norm.”
Her dad Gabor is an hotelier and her mother a dentist. However, her grandfather, Tamas Kertesz, was reportedly a professional soccer player who played twice for Hungary’s Ferencvarosi TC. in the 1950s and went on to coach Ghana.
The beginning of her career:
At the age of 12, Konta found herself in Mildura, in the north west of the state of Victoria, to compete in the junior grass-court national championships. It was then that Tennis Australia's newly appointed national women's coach Pete McCraw discovered her.
"She always had a clean grip on her racquet, her water bottle was full, and she was always on time. Probably the strongest memory is that she was always up for learning even when she was working on areas of her game that were not her strength,” Craw said. “Sooner or later in tennis, you are going to have a peer group of one. You need to have a willingness to separate yourself, and Johanna brought that with her. She would even put her bag slightly offset from the other girls' bags in a communal place.”
At the age of 14, Konta attended the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona, Spain, for four months.
Being born Down Under, Konta represented Australia from 2008 to 2012. However, she switched allegiance to the U.K. after becoming an official citizen in 2012.
“It made me feel more settled. I wanted GBR next to my name for a very long time,” the athlete said at the time. “I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know the National Anthem yet but please quiz me again, I promise I will. I’ve taken the ‘Life in the U.K.’ test and was very happy I passed.”
Her rise to fame:
Konta began to attract wider attention after the U.S .Open of 2015, where she beat Spain’s Garbine Muguruza and Germany’s Andrea Petkovic in New York before going on to defeat Halep at the Wuhan Open in China.
Although she lost to Venus Williams in the quarterfinals, her incredible performance moved her from world No.150 into the 40s.
Last year she reached the last four in Melbourne and made it to the fourth round at the U.S. Open for the second year in a row. Moreover, she also reached the quarterfinals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Her ‘Secret Weapon’:
According her coach Wim Fissette, Konta’s secret weapon is “learning her tactics off by heart and reciting them before matches.”
“I text her the game plan the night before and she reads it,” he said, according to the Daily Mail. “There are tactical messages but also some mental ones of what I feel is important that day. Five minutes before she goes on court, she repeats the messages back to me. You could say it is like a little exam and maybe a bit unusual but when she is 100 percent clear about her intentions that is when Jo plays her best matches.”
As for her personality, U.K.’s Andy Murray recently suggested it might be good for Konta to “let the emotions out on court.”
However, this is what the young star had to say about the entire debate surrounding her attitude:
“I think, for me, it's not something that comes naturally. I am quite a private person but I also understand the importance of sharing my journey with not just the people that are following my progress, but also with young girls who want to become an athlete.”
Thumbnail Credits: Reuters