Unexpected rise to British No.1 is all part of the process for Johanna Konta

Johanna Konta
Johanna Konta

Perhaps the secret behind Johanna Konta’s recent rise to the top of British tennis is that she doesn’t appear that fussed at all about becoming British No.1.

Konta openly admits that in the past she was too highly strung and anxiety at key moments in matches was her holding back.

The 24-year-old still remains fiercely determined to maximise her potential but crucially she has now adopted a more relaxed approach to her tennis and everything that goes with the hectic life of competing on the WTA tour.

Little more than a year ago the Eastbourne player was struggling to qualify for the top events on the circuit let alone competing with the world’s best for quarter and semi-final places.

Konta had displayed brief glimpses of her potential but often her game would falter at critical moments and she finished 2014 ranked a lowly 150. A year down the track and much has changed.

Fit, healthy and confident Konta is very much one of the form players of world tennis and few players would relish being drawn against her in the opening rounds of a tournament. Reaching the last 16 of the US Open was swiftly followed by a quarter final appearance at Wahun Open, China.

It took double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova to end her run at Flushing Meadows while former world No.1 and multiple Grand Slam winner Venus Williams was pushed to the limit before she finally knocked Konta out in China.

A winning streak this season saw her lose just once in 22 matches (to Kvitova) and before she faced Williams for a place in the last four at the Wahun last week, she had amassed enough ranking points to topple Heather Watson as British No.1 and also confirmed her place in the world’s top 50.

“I don’t look at the rankings too much to be honest,” Konta said. “I have to look at what I can control.

“It is nice to hear that you are the British No.1, on paper that does sound good. But tournaments come and go, results come and go and I have focus on the now and my next match. If I can get that right then I give myself the very best chance of being successful.

“I’m a firm believer that there are going to be ebbs and flows, nothing goes on forever and I’m not really thinking ahead or behind.

“I do like to stay in the present because that’s the only thing I have a certain control over. It has been quite a few months for me and maybe at the end of the season I will reflect more upon it. I can look at playing in front of the crowds in New York, the centre court of Wimbledon and my results in China.

“But right now I’m just thankful that I’m nearing the end of the season and I still feel fit and healthy. That, for me, is a huge positive.”

Ironically her up-turn in form came just after the Lawn Tennis Association cut her funding, a move that prompted Konta to relocate her training to Spain.

She has also worked with Juan Coto, a sports psychologist, who has helped her manage the stresses of tournament tennis - particularly at key points of matches.

The benefits have been there for all to see in recent months as she has despatched the likes of Garbine Muguruza, Victoria Azarenka, Andrea Petkovic and Simona Halep.

Next up for the British No.1 is the General Ladies Linz tournament in Austria on October 12. Despite her recent success Konta remains modest about her chances.

“I have a few days rest after China then I can prepare for Austria.

“It’s great to back in Eastbourne and to be with my family and eat some home cooking. A cheese and ham toastie after being on the road in China was like heaven.

“Austria will be another opportunity for me. The depth in women’s tennis is very good. I have had some good results but it is just as easy to lose against a lower ranked opponent - If you lower your level you can be beaten at anytime.”

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