Getting to know Australian Open semi-finalist Johanna Konta
January 27th, 2016 turned out to be a glorious day for British tennis as history was created at the Australian Open. Great Britain now has three semi-finalists at the season’s first Slam as Andy Murray and Jamie Murray became the first pair of brothers to reach the last-four stage of the singles and the doubles draw at the Australian Open in the Open Era.
The third player in this triumvirate – 47th-ranked Johanna Konta – is now in her maiden Slam semi-final in women’s singles and will fight for a final berth against the seventh seed Angelique Kerber. By entering the last-four, she emulated Jo Durie’s feat who was the last British woman to reach a Grand Slam semi-final at the 1983 US Open.
For a nation starved of any female player in the top echelons of the sport, Konta’s accomplishment brings new hope to British tennis. Here are ten things you should know about her:
1. The 24-year-old was born in Sydney on May 17, 1991 to Hungarians Gabor and Gabriella. The family moved to England in 2005 when Johanna was 14-years-old. She started representing Britain from 2012, the year she was officially granted British citizenship.
2. Konta’s idol during her formative years was the legendary 22-time Major winner, Steffi Graf.
3. Konta was a fine swimmer as a child but had to give up dreams of pursuing the sport further because of ear infections. Her next choice of sport was either athletics or tennis. She was a state-level 800m runner in Australia but ultimately shifted her focus to tennis.
4. She had been working with experienced Spanish coaches – Jose Manuel Garcia and Esteban Carril – from August, 2014. After the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) made a pay cut in her funding at the end of 2014, Konta moved her training base to Gijon, Spain to work with her Spanish coaches on a full-fledged basis. That eventually proved to be one of the best decisions she ever took for her career.
5. After being suggested by Carril, she started working with mental coach, Juan Coto from October, 2014. It became the backbone of Konta’s meteoric rise as Coto infused her with self-belief that was previously lacking.
6. She turned pro in 2008, but Konta announced herself on the WTA Tour only last year as she started racking up wins and scalping higher-ranked players from WTA Eastbourne during the grass season. After losing to Maria Sharapova at the first round of Wimbledon, she went on a 16-match winning streak that included upsets of Garbine Muguruza and Andrea Petkovic at the US Open. Konta’s run came to an end at the hands of Petra Kvitova in the fourth round at New York which was her best-ever result at a Slam until this year’s Australian Open.
7. She continued her brilliant form at the WTA Premier event in Wuhan where she reached the quarter-finals and bowed out in a tight three-setter to Venus Williams, the same player whom she beat in the opening round of the 2016 Australian Open. At Wuhan, she also upset the World No. 2 Simona Halep and had a win over Victoria Azarenka, who retired after losing the first set.
8. Her spectacular second half of 2015 saw her end the season ranked 47th which was a jump of 103 places from her ranking of 150th at the end of 2014. Konta is projected to enter the top-30s for the very first time after her remarkable success at the Australian Open.
9. Konta’s performances at the Australian Open witnessed a dramatic turnaround in a span of 12 months. Last year, she had bowed out of the first round of qualifying after losing to Anna Tatishvili of the USA, 4-6, 5-7.
10. This is Konta’s main draw debut at the Australian Open, which makes her achievement even more impressive. She is the first debutante to go as far as the semi-finals since Canadian Eugenie Bouchard in 2014.